Here it is. The whole thing. All 47,191 words of it.
Title: The Muse
Fandom/Pairing: Glee, Kurt/Blaine
Word Count: 47,191 (jeez!)
Rating: NC-17 for m/m sex
Summary: An AU that shamelessly thieves giant pieces of plot from Anne Rice’s novel Belinda. Blaine is thirty-four. Kurt is sixteen. Stuff happens (not exactly the same stuff as is in the book, jsyk).
WARNING: See summary.
Author’s notes: Textually poaching characters and a plot? Mais oui.::rotating disco chicken of nonregret::
Gratitudes: To Andie, for the equivalent of spiritual midwifery in delivering this story. To Giulia, for art knowledge and visual language and helping me learn how to see. To Gleekto, for cheerleading and insight and generous support. And to AubreyLi and Alice, because.
“Look out—I think Pinocchio over there has a bit of a crush.”
It was just a whisper, Quinn’s cool hand on his shoulder when she bent over him, ostensibly to put down another stack of books. Blaine finished the copy he was signing and handed it back to the blushing, smiling mother who was waiting for it, and took the opportunity while she stowed her signed copy in her baby bag to glance over in the direction Quinn’s head had nodded.
There. On the other side of the long queue, only visible in short glimpses as the endless line of people shuffled forward. Blaine swallowed. Pinocchio—maybe, okay, with the dark hair and wide blue eyes and pink cheeks, not to mention the prep-school clothes—but Pinocchio had never been exactly an icon of male beauty, whereas the boy smiling gently in his general direction on the other side of the line, one eyebrow faintly raised as if he were deeply amused by all this but really too polite to say so—was… at least from a distance—extraordinary.
Blaine’s hands itched for his sketchpad, a pencil. His camera. A way to pause time—freeze it solid except for him, so that he could get closer.
Of course, he got none of that. What he got was another gently smiling mother, another copy of his book held out to him, another story about how much the book meant to little Jill or John, another question about when the next movie would be out, another and another and another.
The next time he took a drink of water—just to pause, just to have a single moment away from the hard work of being polite and engaged and carefully self-deferential—the boy was gone.
“I need alcohol,” he said by way of greeting Quinn when he finally, finally finished signing the bookstore staff’s copies and ducked out their back door. “I need to sit in a dark room with no pink or baby blue in it, and drink vast quantities of alcohol.”
“You did fine,” Quinn told him coolly, taking his arm with a smile. Of course he’d done fine—she would have let him know if he hadn’t. Immediately. “Another bunch of Berkeley mothers charmed into lifelong fans; you only think you’re terrible at public appearances. You’re a born performer.”
“Why is it always mothers?” He asked plaintively, digging through his pockets with his free hand for his keys. “I mean, I suppose it’s more orderly than if it was all their kids, but it just seems kind of—”
“It’s always mothers because you’re hunky, in that nebbishy-shy-nice-guy sort of way,” she told him, playful and teasing, squeezing his arm. “I’d swoon over you myself if I didn’t know better. Now stop blushing and take a lady out for a hard-earned drink, okay?”
The tiny parking lot behind the bookstore was dark, only one flickering streetlight overhead. Between that and the soft, musical lilt of the voice, it took him a while to realize that the boy walking up to him was the boy—the one he’d wanted a closer look at. And even in the terrible light, he could see his instincts hadn’t been wrong. Extraordinary, yes—pale and lovely with a snub nose and large, long-lashed eyes under dark brows, rosy cheeks and pink, delicious-looking lips—angelic. Innocence personified. Probably got a lot of crap at school for his prettiness—and probably hated it as a result. Which was a tragedy. “Hi. You were in the bookstore.”
“Yes.” Beautiful voice, high and soft, but with power to it, the suggestion of something held back. “I got one of the last copies of your book that they had, but you were already gone by then. Would you sign it?”
“Of course.” He took his time, didn’t look at the book or the pen the boy handed him, staring instead at—that face. He couldn’t be sure, but he suspected a light spray of freckles across the nose. Ridiculously adorable. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Kurt. With a ‘K’.” A faint smile, and—yes. That was not really an innocent smile. Not a charmed-fan smile. That smile was sardonic and knowing and… flirtatious? God. “But you don’t need to write anything if you don’t want to—just your name is fine.”
To Kurt, a modern Ganymede, he wrote, thank you for the inspiration.—and signed his name. He offered the book and pen back, not entirely surprised when Kurt raised an eyebrow at him after reading the inscription. “Really?”
“Nice to see that private school is giving you a thorough knowledge of the classics,” he said, and when Quinn coughed discreetly he almost jumped, because—well, he’d gotten a little lost there for a minute.
“Mr. Anderson is always happy to meet his fans,” she said in her smoothest, most professional manager’s voice—perhaps a degree or two cooler than usual, but that wasn’t exactly surprising given that he’d just been pretty much shamelessly flirting with this… baby. “But it’s been a very long day, I’m sure you understand—”
“We could go to a diner instead of a bar,” Blaine said, at the same time that Kurt said, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude—”
“You’re not intruding,” Blaine said emphatically. Quinn was staring at him; even his peripheral vision could pick up the intensity of her frown. “I’m pretty hungry, actually. Are you hungry, Kurt?”
“Famished,” Kurt said, and there was a moment, they were eye-to-eye and something just clicked, bone-deep and rapid-fire fast—and it didn’t make any sense, not with Kurt as young as he had to be—but it was there. Undeniable. And dangerous.
Quinn sniffed. “Greasy fries and fluorescent lighting and jukebox music? Count me out, Blaine—I think I got enough of that when I was a teenager.” Her emphasis on the last word drew him up, captured his attention completely.
“Quinn, I’m sorry,” he said, reaching for his keys again. “Here, I’ll take you home—”
“Oh, no—Blaine, just… never mind, I’ll catch a cab.” A fast, cool kiss on his cheek, one last sharp, fierce look—do not do anything stupid, Blaine—and she was gone.
“Manager,” Blaine said absently, turning from the corner where Quinn had disappeared back to Kurt, back to that innocent face, with its not-so-innocent expression. “And one of my oldest friends.”
“She doesn’t think much of me.”
“Not true. She doesn’t think much of me thinking much of you.”
“She’s protective of you. I think I approve.” Kurt blinked. “Do you? Think much of me?”
Blaine grinned, and put his hands in his pockets. “Let’s go get some greasy fries and we’ll talk about it.”
They wound up at Orphan Andy’s, in a corner booth. Blaine got fries. Kurt asked for a diet coke, and nothing else. Blaine gave him a look when the waiter walked away with their menus.
“Okay, so I wasn’t actually famished,” Kurt admitted with a wry, shy smile, blushing prettily.
“This web of lies and deceit is unbearable,” Blaine drawled melodramatically—he was smiling, of course he was smiling, but Kurt looked at him sharply for a moment, one brief moment where his face was careful and set before he shook his head and smiled again, looking away and sipping his water.
He was going to follow it up, but Kurt’s profile—and the line of his neck, what little of it Blaine could see given the shirt and tie—distracted him, brought him down to the level of bluntness. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” Another one of those looks, frank and straight at him. Blaine felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
He sighed. “Okay, so that’s not it.”
“What’s not what?”
“What you’re planning to lie about.”
The waiter arrived, and there were a few moments of silence while Blaine squirted ketchup and Kurt slowly unwrapped his straw—lovely, elegant fingers, beautiful hands, white and tapered. Blaine wondered if they were as soft as they looked.
“I don’t want to lie to you.”
“I believe you.”
“But there’s… there are a lot of things I can’t… that I’m not going to talk about.”
Blaine pushed his fries into the middle of the table, indicating that Kurt should help himself. “Okay.” He shrugged. “Why don’t you just tell me the things you can tell me?”
Kurt smiled faintly. “What, all of them?”
Blaine grinned, and sucked ketchup off the tip of his thumb. “Every single one. I’m captivated.”
Kurt shook his head, looking almost indulgent—ridiculous in a sixteen-year-old, but somehow it worked. “All right.” He took a fry but didn’t eat it, just held it while he spoke. “I’m Kurt. I’m sixteen. I’ve been in San Francisco for just over three months now, and I hope I never have to leave. I like books and clothes and music and art. I’m… oh, God—I’m so incredibly dull, honestly—”
“You’re a runaway.” The clothes were a costume, good thrift-store buys, carefully selected for camouflage. He didn’t know why he hadn’t realized it before.
Kurt sat up straight, very straight, and his face went absolutely pale, no color at all in his near-translucent cheeks. Then he was moving, sliding towards the edge of the booth. “I have to go—”
Blaine caught his wrist, and faintly registered that Kurt’s hands were even softer than they looked. His heart was beating too fast. “No, you don’t.” Kurt went still, looking at him with intent penetration, heartbreakingly careful and cautious in that beautiful face. “I’m not… whatever it is you’re afraid I’m going to do—I’m not. I won’t.”
Kurt slid slowly back to the center of the booth seat. He took his hand back, and Blaine let go. Kurt’s eyes were downcast, and his lashes cast shadows on his cheeks, criminally long. “You won’t ask?” he said, and it was barely more than a whisper.
“You won’t tell?”
“Who would I tell?” Those eyes, overbright now, liquid and wide and hauntingly pretty, right at him, pushing—it wasn’t enough. “No. I won’t tell anyone.”
“Okay.” Slow relaxation, one muscle at a time visibly easing, but still wary. “I’m… sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Blaine said, leaning back and nudging the plate forward. “Help me eat these, okay?”
Kurt smiled, finally—the softest, gentlest smile that Blaine had ever seen. It twisted his heart terribly. “Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
The fries were gone. Blaine ordered coffee for both of them. Kurt wrapped both hands around his cup as soon as it arrived.
“Are you cold?”
“No.” Kurt shrugged. “I just… still calming down, I guess.” He took a sip and put the mug down. “Let’s talk about you instead, shall we?” A smile—the saucy one, the one that was absurdly appealing. “So—did you always want to be a ruggedly handsome writer of children’s books?”
Blaine had to grab for a napkin—coffee out his nose, ow, God. “Jeez. Warn a guy, will you?” He mopped up, shaking his head. “Um, no, actually. That all just kind of… happened. I’m… I was a painter.”
Kurt raised an eyebrow. “Not an artist?”
Blaine shrugged, grinning. “Not if you go by the critics, no.” He sipped his coffee and put it down. “I was labeled ‘fanciful’, ‘baroque’, ‘fantastic’—but not in the good way—‘overblown’, ‘weird’, and ‘hopelessly jejune’.”
Kurt shook his head. “Oh, that’s when you know you’re in trouble—when they start flinging ‘jejune’ at you.”
Adolescent cynicism. Sweet-bitter. Fucking adorable. Blaine wanted to grab his face and kiss him. He squeezed his coffee cup instead. “Right. So, one day I was babysitting for a friend of mine, trying desperately to entertain a four-year-old and a six-year-old with no idea how to go about it—I’d tried everything I could think of, and finally, in desperation, I offered to paint whatever they wanted. And the girl said ‘dragons’ and the boy said ‘fairies’—Berkeley children, so, yeah—and they wanted a story to go along with the painting, and of course there wasn’t a story, so I had to make one up, and it was the most ridiculous, outlandish stuff I could think of…”
He broke off, catching his breath a little, reminding himself yet again that he did not have to defend what he did for a living. Or the level of success he’d achieved doing it, or what it meant to have children’s books on the adult bestseller list. “And eventually, that all turned into a book. And then a second book, and a third. And then Disney got interested in making the movie, and then… well, everything went kind of crazy at that point.”
“Do you like it?”
Blaine blinked. That wasn’t the question most people asked. Most people asked either when the next book or movie was coming out (if they were fans), or how much money he made (if they weren’t). “Do I… like it?”
Kurt tilted his head, a new angle on his face, and Blaine was enchanted all over again. “Yes. Like. As in, enjoy. Do you enjoy what you do?”
The terrible thing about not being prepared for that question was… not having an answer prepared for that question. “I like writing, a lot more than I thought I would. I like my independence. I’m glad that I found what my smartass lawyer likes to call ‘an appropriate outlet for my immature impulses’. I like creating.” He took a breath. “There’s a lot… a lot I can’t do. That I want to do. But I can’t, without, um, ‘damaging the brand’, I think they call it.” Blaine blinked. He never said that out loud. To anyone. Not even his friends. “When my current contract is fulfilled, I’m not doing any more.”
He was dizzy. He’d actually said it. To an overly-pretty sixteen-year-old runaway who was a complete stranger to him. Fuck. “Please don’t tell anyone that.”
The look was half-amused and half-sad, that sardonic, wry touch that just amazed him. “I guess… we get to keep each other’s secrets.”
“I guess we do.”
The diner got much more crowded and loud after the bars closed, so Blaine paid the tab along with a twenty-dollar tip for the lengthy booth stay, and the two of them headed out into the chilly, foggy night. Kurt had no coat other than his school blazer, so Blaine gave him his.
“No, really—I’m fine, I’m… you call this cold, here, but it isn’t, really, not like it gets—” Kurt cut off abruptly and looked away, biting his lip and shaking his head ruefully. Blaine took advantage of his momentary distraction to settle his coat more firmly around Kurt’s shoulders. He had both shoulders in his hands when Kurt looked back at him, and then there was visible breath mingling in the cold and they were… face-to-face, only inches apart and Kurt was… gorgeous. He was pearly-skinned, pink-lipped perfection, flawless in the icy air, innocent again and so, so tempting. Blaine almost groaned aloud.
“I want… I’d really like you to model for me. If… um—”
“I… okay. Right now?”
“Not… it’s—it must be too late for you, tonight—”
“I’m awake.” That voice. Sweet and pure, with an edge. “I’m up for it if you are.”
When Kurt slipped an arm through his on the way to the car, Blaine shivered.
He normally narrated the tour for any visitor to his house—apologized for it, he realized for the first time; offering up a wry, half-cynical, well-rehearsed narrative that encompassed all that was necessary to explain why a grown man with abundant financial resources would choose to live in a creaky old Victorian house stuffed with children’s toys and weird art pieces and antiques.
He said none of it to Kurt. He just watched. He watched Kurt move like a too-bright flame from one thing to the next—timeless and eerie, the perfect ghost to haunt these old rooms. Blaine moved silently ahead, turning on lights as he went, including the chandelier and all the lamps in his living room—and that, that was the perfect lighting for Kurt, the night too dark and the diner lighting too garish, but the old lamps, yes—the light was perfect, romantic and warm on Kurt’s pale, fine-grained skin, bringing yet another kind of loveliness out in him that was neither innocent nor sophisticated nor haunting, but—human. Earthy. Devastatingly sexy. Blaine swallowed.
Kurt smiled at him. “You have a ten-foot-tall dragon statue in your living room.”
“It’s… um. A friend of mine made it, a sculptor, and I saw it and I thought it was cool, so—”
“Oh, it’s extremely cool.”
Blaine tried not to grin, and failed. “Yeah?”
But all exploration of the house ended when Kurt discovered the piano. “This… this is beautiful,” he said, sitting down on the bench, touching the keys softly. When he looked up, his eyes were luminous, defying any effort to categorize their color. “And it’s in tune—do you play?”
“Not at all,” Blaine said, resisting the sudden urge to stuff his hands in his pockets. “I have a guy, who comes to tune it; he was here last week. It was just, uh… a thing I bought, I’m not even sure why, now—I just—” He shrugged. He’d never had to justify his piano before. “I just thought I should have one.”
Kurt gave him a stern, disapproving look. “Hopelessly jejune, Mr. Anderson.”
Blaine’s stomach did a weird little flip. “You caught me. Let me rephrase that—I bought it for you, of course. I take it you play?”
Kurt didn’t bother to answer—he just started playing. Softly, slowly, something unfamiliar. “I’ve missed it. The piano, I mean.”
The notes hung in the air, and Blaine tried to remember if he’d ever heard his piano actually being played, before—he didn’t think so.
The light had texture, the sound had weight—it pressed him, crept inside. His palms itched. “I… will it bother you if I sketch you while you do that?”
“No. Go right ahead.”
He didn’t have to go far, thanks to his terrible habit of leaving sketchbooks everywhere. He had just grabbed one, and—thankfully—found a pencil carelessly tucked between the pages, when Kurt started singing.
The pencil fell out of his hand, and the pad would have as well if he hadn’t clamped down on it. That voice—that was the power that had been hiding behind Kurt’s speaking voice this whole time. He snatched up the pencil and turned around. Some fanciful corner of his brain half-expected to find that Kurt had fledged wings while he wasn’t looking.
There were no wings. There was just Kurt, his voice pure and clear and so sweet-sad it was wrenching, singing… something, some song he’d never heard before. Blaine stood still for a moment, then walked quietly towards the piano and braced the pad against it at an angle, open to a clean sheet of paper.
It was a huge relief to sink, to let his hand and his eyes and his brain do what they wanted to, what they’d been wanting to do for hours now. It was like letting go after holding something too tightly for too long, and he sighed softly as his hand blurred over the paper. Kurt never even looked up.
Blaine drank him in, sketching fast—much faster than he usually went. Just that face, just a simple sketch, but he was trying to capture… so much; the warm light on pale, fine skin; the evocative, elusive quality of timelessness—as if Kurt were a ghost from a bygone age, impossible to touch; the perfect, charming beauty that threaded innocence and experience together, and—that voice. Of course he could never catch that, never translate that pleasure from his ears and nerves and heart to the paper. Never.
He tried anyway.
Blaine sank further, falling into the work, feeling each line and shade and curve like he was touching it with his fingers, memorizing shape and texture—but the next time he glanced up, his hand went abruptly still.
Kurt’s eyes were closed. He was still singing. He looked… lost, lost in what he was doing, surrendered and abandoned to it—and a streak like lightning ran down Blaine’s spine. It went way past flirtation, way past the charm of captivation cast by the lovely, strange boy in front of him. He wanted to put his hands in Kurt’s soft hair and pull his head back until his neck was stretched-white and vulnerable, wanted to cover Kurt’s sweet, pink-perfect lips with his own. Wanted to suck the silky skin of his throat until he moaned, strip him naked and touch all his secrets, push into his tight, teenage body one slow inch at a time and see that perfect face flushed and needing, wanted to take him and keep him and make him shiver, yield, come.
Blaine closed his eyes. He was dizzy. He was half-hard. And… and the song was over, the last notes hanging in the air, softly vibrating.
The song was over, and Kurt’s eyes were open. Wide open and aimed right at him, and Blaine felt his cheeks glow hot because God knows how much of what he’d been thinking was right there, written on his face. “Kurt, I—”
“Will you kiss me?”
Blaine stopped as abruptly as if he’d been caught in a chokehold, swaying a little on his feet. “Kurt.”
Kurt’s eyes were large, warm in the light, his cheeks pink. “You can—if you want to. You can—”
Blaine clenched both hands onto the edge of the piano to keep himself still. “Kurt, I… I can’t.”
Kurt’s eyes lowered, and his cheeks went from pink to red. “You can’t?” His voice was soft, softly broken, and Blaine’s vision blurred.
“You’re sixteen.” Sixteen, and a survivor of… of whatever it had been that caused him to run—a minefield, where the only casualty of any misstep would be Kurt. “I can’t.”
Kurt didn’t look at him. “But… you want to?”
“Oh my God, yes.” Blaine took a breath, because he owed Kurt more than that, he owed Kurt anything and everything that might help him understand. “I… want to. So much. But I… it would be…” there was a word, the right word. It eluded him. “It wouldn’t just be criminal, if I did, if I… I would hate myself. It would be a sin.”
He stood his ground when Kurt got to his feet, because he was sure, he was certain—it was killing him, but he was certain. He stood his ground when Kurt left the room. He stood his ground until he heard the click of the front door closing—until he realized with a sudden cold shock that Kurt wasn’t taking a different tack or shifting gears or going for a drink of water, but leaving, running—and then he moved, clumsy and panicked and way-too-fast, hooked his foot around the runner of a rocking chair piled with antique dolls and went down, then scrambled up, bolted through the house and out the door—but the street outside was cold and foggy and empty and silent, completely deserted.
“Kurt!” His voice echoed around him, muffled by the fog. He ran down the street, peering into the mist that shrouded everything, cursing the shadows that pooled between the grey-orange islands cast by the streetlights.
Nothing. He was alone.
Blaine walked the streets, the most likely routes that Kurt might have taken, until he was soaked to the skin and shivering. No Kurt. When he finally arrived back home he closed his front door, and stood with his palms against it until the shivers went away.
It took a long, long time.
In the morning, he was tempted to think of the night before as something finite—a bittersweet interlude, unexpectedly strange and wonderful, as well as unexpectedly (but perhaps predictably) sad, in the way it ended. A strange, sweet, melancholy story; a chapter closed and done.
Tempting to think of it that way—until he made his way back to the living room, the pushed-back piano bench, and the sketch.
He had to sit down when he picked up the sketch. The hand not holding the pad picked out a few singular notes on the piano—but there was no melody, no music to it, nothing that evoked the spell that had caught him last night.
But the sketch did that all on its own—Kurt: everything about him, all that Blaine could catch. Shadows and light and loveliness, a summation of a mystery, the end of the story. The end, there in graphite pressed into fine paper.
All he had, besides memory.
Blaine closed the sketchpad slowly, and sat there with rare San Francisco sunshine pooling warm around his bare feet, rubbing his thumb back and forth over the textured cover.
It wasn’t enough.
He decided (with the application of a brand of logic he thought it best not to scrutinize too closely,) that the bookstore was a good place to start. Kurt had seemed comfortable there when Blaine had first seen him—he’d just have to hope there was a reason for that.
There was a coffeehouse two doors down, one with tiny, iron tables outside on the street. Sitting there seemed ridiculous and quixotic and distinctly tinged with absurdity, but sit there he did—drinking cup after cup of coffee, and scanning the street semi-surreptitiously above his wide-spread newspaper, like some kind of bad B-movie spy. No Kurt.
He went back the next day, and the day after that—wondering when the scale of what he was doing would tip from farcical to pathetic, wondering which of his vital organs he was damaging most with the superabundance of coffee, wondering if maybe he was having some kind of quiet, early mid-life crisis with all this stupid mooning over a sixteen-year-old boy he’d met once and couldn’t even touch—when Kurt suddenly sat down in the chair opposite, as calmly as if they’d agreed to meet there at exactly that precise moment.
“You’re not very subtle, you know.”
Blaine swallowed his mouthful of coffee, folding his paper with leisurely, unhurried movements. “Believe it or not, I was just thinking the same thing.” He laid the folded paper on the table, and grinned. He kind of couldn’t help it.
Kurt’s face was careful, controlled, almost haughty. It was a disturbingly good look on him. “Is there something you wanted to say to me?”
Blaine licked his lips. “Want some coffee? I just love the coffee here.”
Blaine handed Kurt his coffee, then sat back down in the hellish iron chair that had become the bane of his existence, and tried not to stare. Kurt’s hair was spiked, streaked with blue. He was wearing silver-rimmed glasses with blue-tinted lenses, a blue-grey military-style fitted shirt, and wickedly tight black jeans tucked into twenty-hole lace-up boots. Not a trace of the private-school boy remained.
Kurt probably thought it made him look older. It didn’t. He’d gone from choirboy to ice-prince, but he was still the same beauty, a luminous stone repolished and placed in a different setting. Still desperately lovely; still dangerously young.
“So,” Blaine said, completely unable to stop smiling—in amazement, in gratitude, in rueful awe that this stupid, hopeless ploy of his had actually worked, and that he had Kurt again, right there in front of him. “How’ve you been?”
Kurt blinked at him. “Do you believe in God?”
Okay. That… finally made him quit smiling. “Um. What?”
“It’s a simple question. Do you. Believe. In God?”
“I… no. No, I don’t.”
Kurt closed his eyes for a moment, his lashes soot-black behind the blue lenses. When he opened them again, his voice was lower, softer. “Do you still want me to model for you?”
Blaine took a deep breath. “Yes. So much.”
Kurt looked away then, his lips faintly pursed, his legs high-crossed with both of his elegant hands wrapped around his knee. “And is that… is that all you want?”
It was just the smallest seam, an invisible crack in Kurt’s smooth façade, nothing obvious in his voice or face to show—but there, for eyes to see that could. Blaine leaned towards him, resting his crossed arms on the table, his voice low. “No.” He held Kurt’s eyes when they darted back to him. “I want your cellphone number, and I want you to have mine. I want to know how to find you, so that I don’t have to resort to this absurd stakeout routine because I can’t stop thinking about you. I want… I’d like to see if we can be friends, if you… if that’s something you want.”
Kurt smiled for the first time—just a little. His eyebrow arched. “Friends?”
“If you want, yes.”
Peering at him over the blue lenses, eyes indefinable, all of him completely adorable. “Does that come with piano-playing benefits?”
That smile. Saucy and sweet and ever-so-faintly sad. Blaine folded his hands so they wouldn’t reach out on their own. “Night or day. Knock yourself out. I told you: I bought it for you. I just didn’t know it at the time.”
Kurt looked away and shook his head, his cheeks flushing faintly pink. He sighed. “Okay. When do we start?”
“Sorry—I have to make one stop, at the bank. It’ll be quick.”
Kurt craned his head towards the street when Blaine parked, squinting up at the buildings. “At… the bank? Why, are your paintbrushes coin-operated?”
Blaine’s lips twisted. Bless the children. Especially the bratty, sarcastic ones. “No, but—correct me if I’m wrong, because I’m going on a theory, here. I just thought that, given your, um, current situation, I assumed it would be best if I paid you in cash.”
Kurt looked at him, wide-eyed. “You… oh. I guess… I didn’t think about that. About you paying me.”
Blaine undid his seat belt. “I’m an artist. You’re my model. I’m paying you.”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “Thirty seconds in as my boss, and already laying down the law. Hardass.”
The rich, dense smells of linseed oil and turpentine and wood and ink and paint that permanently haunted the third-floor loft welcomed him, as always—calming and comforting and exciting all at once. Kurt wandered around the wide space while Blaine prepped his camera, plus sketchpads, his box of pencils, and a large stretched and primed linen canvas. “So… this is where you work?”
Blaine looked around. He always forgot how different the loft was in comparison with the rest of the house, until someone remarked on it. Downstairs was a carnival of oddities all clamoring for attention at once. Up here it was bare to the point of being utilitarian: finished canvases stacked against the wall, two large cabinets for his supplies, a small desk with a computer and oversized monitor. Scattered around the room were tripods and lighting equipment, and whatever props and references he was working with at the moment—and that was it. “Yeah, I like a lot of room when I work, and not a lot of distractions. It’s easier to focus.”
“I like it,” Kurt said softly. “It’s kind of… romantic.”
Blaine put down the charcoal stick he was inspecting, and looked up. There was an old, nearly threadbare brown velvet armchair facing the windows, with some of his favorite antique dolls sitting on it—he’d been painting them last week, working them in as background on one of the canvases for his next book. Kurt was standing next to it, spare and elegant in his trim, tight-fitted clothes, his white fingers looped through the glossy, blond ringlets of the large, French doll with the elaborately frilled lace petticoat. The juxtaposition of it caught him. “That’s… hold it there, Kurt, okay?”
Kurt looked up, his eyes wide. “What, this? But don’t you need me to… I mean… my hair’s blue—”
“It’s a very nice color on you,” Blaine said conversationally, moving all the dolls except the bebe blonde platine to his desk. He hauled the armchair around until he had it where he wanted it, then made a kind of futile attempt to brush the dust off it. “Sit here, please?”
He put the doll in Kurt’s lap, and went back to his desk for his camera. When he turned around, he was pleased—nicely diminished gloom in the background, a sense of coolness and space, then the heavy, rich old velvet of the chair, and Kurt like a naked blade shining out of all that darkness—he was so new, so young, so boyish and exquisite, contrasted beautifully with the doll on his lap.
It wasn’t quite right—not yet. But it was close. “I’m going to use the camera, okay?”
There was some self-consciousness—naturally there was, it would have been strange if there hadn’t been—but not much, only a few minutes before Kurt relaxed visibly, leaning back against the chair while his hands smoothed over the doll’s hair and dress. His eyes were heavier, his face prettier, when he was relaxed.
“Yes?” Very relaxed now, very open, very sensual. Tempting. Spellbinding.
“Will you… do you plan to perform, when you… when you’re older?”
Kurt’s lips pressed together, but only for a moment. “I… yes. I want to. Why?”
“Because if you’d said no, I’d have to lecture you about what a waste that would be.”
Kurt smiled faintly, his cheeks flushing. “I’ve wanted to do that all my life—or at least as long as I can remember.”
“Singing, or piano? Both?”
“Musical theater, actually. But… not right now. I can’t.”
“There’s… people are looking for you?”
A shadow crossed his face, and Kurt shifted the doll in his lap. “I don’t want to talk about that.”
“It’s okay.” But Kurt’s hand went to his mouth, his small, white teeth nibbling his ring finger.
“Is there anything… I’d like to help you, if I could.”
Those gorgeous eyes, so level and frank behind the blue lenses. “Why? You don’t even know me.”
No. He just felt like he did. “No. But I’d like to.”
There was another one of those moments, intense and immediate, eye-to-eye and weirdly connected, as if there were some kind of conduit running between them. Raw, and dizzyingly powerful. All the hair on the back of Blaine’s neck stood up.
Kurt hissed, and jumped a little, and the spell was broken. “Ow.” He shook his hand, the one that had been in his mouth. “I have got to stop doing that, I keep—oh, no. Blaine—hell, I’m so sorry—”
Blaine had moved closer without knowing it, and both of them were looking down, down to where a drop of blood was spreading on the pristine white pettiskirts of the doll on Kurt’s lap. “Blaine, really—I can fix this, I can; I know fabric, trust me, I know how to—”
“Don’t move,” Blaine said, his voice husky and hoarse, his mouth perfectly dry. “Just… stay right there.”
The click of the digital camera resonated right down to his bones when he pressed the button.
It was… something, he didn’t know what. It was often like that, with his work—his subconscious brain picked up on things, went places he would never go, showed him things he’d never be able to see on his own, offered him clues that were tantalizing and subtle and occasionally outright maddening—until he saw it.
He didn’t see it until he got the computer booted up and the pictures transferred, flicking through one after the other on the giant, high-resolution monitor. Kurt from so many different angles, yes, good, color and composition and some good, some bad—he skipped impatiently through until he got to the last one.
The splash of blood was tiny, just a droplet: brilliant, crimson red on the white lace. Kurt was staring at it in the picture, his face almost guilty, hectic and flushed.
Kurt was peering over his shoulder. “That’s… a pretty unusual picture, Blaine.”
Blaine’s face was hot, and he could hear his heartbeat in his ears. He could not look away from that damn drop of blood. “Kurt.” He swallowed. “Are you a virgin?”
Silence. Then, “How did you know that?”
Blaine closed his eyes. “I… didn’t.” He took a breath. A slow, deep one. Then another. “I’m… I apologize for asking that. It’s… not any of my business.”
“It’s okay.” Blaine made himself open his eyes, and turned around. Kurt was blushing, arms crossed over his chest, looking down. “I mean… you said you wanted to know me. It’s okay.”
Blaine stared at him. At Kurt. Delicious. Shy. Innocent. Virgin. Boy. Oh, dear God—he hadn’t even known that was a… thing… for him; it never had been before—but this was apparently the time for all kinds of useless, terrible revelations about himself. “Okay.” He cleared his throat, and tried to make his next words more than a raspy croak. “Are you thirsty?”
“I’m about to fall in a hole,” Blaine said, handing over a glass of iced grapefruit juice, downstairs again with all the crowded bedlam, when all he wanted to be was up in the loft, alone with the light and a hundred beautiful pictures of Kurt. The blank canvas upstairs pulled craving through his blood like a drug. “You can go, or you can stay, if you like. Whichever you prefer. If you want to go, I’ll call you a cab, and cover it. Anywhere you want to go.”
“How long will you… how long does it take?”
“It depends.” How long had it been, since he felt this excited about that blank white space waiting for him? Far too long. Years. Maybe longer. “Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes not. When I’m really into something, when I’m excited about it, I’ll go until I drop.”
Kurt’s lips were wet, glossy. His mouth would be cold and juicy and boy-sweet, right now—Blaine cut that thought off, right where it was, brought his eyes up to Kurt’s before Kurt spoke again. “And are you… excited about this?”
“Very much so.” He left it at that, because if he started babbling about cravings and blood and all his gorgeous pictures of Kurt, it might be a bit much.
“Okay. Would the… is the piano okay, would it disturb you?”
He could grin at that. “Piano, if you like—rummage through everything I own, blast the music, invite the neighbors over for a party, start a band—it won’t matter. I’ll be—”
“In a hole.”
Kurt smiled—devastating smile, with his dimples and baby-smooth cheeks. “You just invited a teenager to run amok in your house, have a party and start a band—has anyone ever told you that your self-preservation skills could use some work?”
“Only everyone I’ve ever met.”
That shake of the head, so adult, with the sardonic smile. “Okay. I’ll stay.”
The truth was, he really didn’t like people in the house when he was working—but that was work, and… other people, and it seemed that those same rules just didn’t apply—not to Kurt, and not to… this.
There were three different pictures he chose for reference, printed out and set up on an easel next to his canvas, then a full palette of the choicest oil paints he had—thick and dense and rich, the ones with the truest pigments that were best suited to a work that needed to last forever, best suited for the fine-linen canvas, best suited for Kurt—and all his best brushes laid out, ready to go. He went in with just the smallest bit of sketching first for scale and proportion, then went all-out on almost everything at once—the background, the chair, Kurt, the doll.
Like the sketch he’d done at the piano, his pace was ridiculously fast—his whole body moving along with his hand, moving while the work kept spooling out beautifully in front of him, stepping back to look, to assess, then in again and wet, loaded brushes right at the canvas.
He stopped to kick off his shoes, then stopped again, some unknown time later, and carefully set his palette down so he could strip out of his Henley, scrubbing the balled-up shirt over his sweating face and saturated hair before he tossed it carelessly aside. It was the connection that made him sweat, that terrifying, elating, blissful connection with the act of creation—but not with the piece itself; not yet—not while he was still chasing objectivity, still trying to get his eyes to tell him what came next, what needed work, what was true and right and done.
The piano had started up before he even finished his initial sketching—a classical piece, something bright and effervescent and fast-paced—but it couldn’t keep his attention from what he was doing for very long. The music wove in and out of his consciousness while he worked, from soft and sad to bright pop, from lilting and lyrical to something that sounded suspiciously like barrelhouse blues—and it was good, so good, just to know that Kurt was there, his presence in the house like a warm glow, so good to know that he was safe…
Kurt downstairs, and Kurt emerging in front of him up here, and there was a hum in his brain that went all the way through him, riding fast and giving it all of him, giving the work everything it asked for, giving it so gladly—the finest high ever, really, no drug could ever be so good, so intimate, so satisfying on a cellular level.
The mellow shine on Kurt’s leather boot was the last thing, and by then his hands were shaking a little and he had to really work at it, capturing the texture of it, the fit and snugness and shape. He could feel the warmth of it, the way leather warmed to the skin after a while, when it was tight.
He closed his eyes when it was done. He was panting a little, soaked with sweat, streaked with paint, and his hands were shaking badly. He desperately needed to pee. He turned towards the windows first, where the sun was sinking into an encroaching bank of fog—about eight hours, more or less, gone in what seemed like milliseconds. Sheer magic.
When he was ready, he turned around and looked.
Gloom and such a sense of age in the background—he’d put in an old tapestry, genteel-shabby wallpaper in a Victorian style. The chair itself a threadbare luxury of long ago, still rich and lush in spots, the velvet eating the light in the way that very old velvet did. In the chair Kurt was relaxed, his head tilted back a little, one leg stretched out; luminous like light made flesh, glowing out of the darkness like a beacon. Ice-cool in blue and grey but the warmth and intelligence and person-ness of him shone out, one of his hands curled next to his face, the other cupped around the lace-heavy bodice of the doll in his lap. Exquisite and deeply sensual, verging on sexual, the weight of him in the picture was enough that Blaine could almost feel him, what it would feel like with Kurt resting in his arms, head against his chest.
It was pornographic and protective at the same time, arresting, jarring—the contrasts: old and new, dark and light, Kurt’s human expression and the doll’s bland, mindless, baby-perfect face. The whole thing had a deep sense of mystery, of secrets—and the focal point of that, of course, was the drop of blood—that was the way in, the key that wasn’t an answer but only the opening to the unknown.
Blaine picked up a brush, then scratched his name and the year into the lower-right corner with the pointed back end of it, his heart pounding, his breath caught high in his throat.
It was everything he’d wanted it to be. And he hoped it didn’t send Kurt screaming into the night when he saw it.
Blaine stopped at the second floor on his way downstairs for a quick shower, paint and sweat and exultation sluicing away from him, leaving him clean and calm. He found Kurt asleep in the living room, snuggled under a light quilt on the low, padded seat that ran around the bay window.
There was a battle going on with the light outside, between sunset orange and icy, creeping fog. The resulting cool-pink glow made Kurt look even younger than he was—so vulnerable, his lips softly open, lashes fanned across his cheeks, just a boy, really. Blaine knelt down silently next to him, but hesitated—only then Kurt’s eyes fluttered open and he stretched, luxuriously, making a soft, contented noise that Blaine tried not to listen to.
“Blaine. Are you… is it done? I’m sorry, I fell asleep—”
“It’s fine, Kurt. Yes, it’s done. I thought I might… are you hungry? I could make us some dinner, if you—”
“I’d love that,” Kurt murmured, sleepy-sweet and smiling, and Blaine’s heart thumped hard in his chest. “But… can I see the painting, first?
Upstairs, Blaine stayed near the staircase after flipping on the lights, leaning against the lintel post with his arms folded over his chest, silent, letting Kurt move forward without him. The urge to talk—narrate, explain, clarify—was nearly overwhelming, but it seemed all too likely that any explanation would become apology, and really—the work had to speak for itself, to every viewer, even when that viewer was also the subject, and sixteen, and worldly but maybe not quite worldly enough to really understand—
“What is it called?” Kurt was still staring at the painting, one ankle crossed over the other, his hands on his hips.
Blaine swallowed. “Desire For A Boy.”
In profile, he saw Kurt’s lips twitch. “Sappho.”
Blaine said nothing for a moment, wondering if Kurt would ever stop surprising him. “Yes.”
Kurt turned towards him then, silhouetted by the twilit world outside the windows. He’d taken his glasses off. He walked closer, so graceful in the way he moved—inhabiting his body so effortlessly, the body that Blaine knew so much better now, after painting that place where Kurt’s shirt clung to his incurved waist, the strong, muscular swell of hip and thigh—“Blaine.”
Kurt was right there. Right there, within arm’s reach, looking at him levelly. Unafraid. Not the least bit afraid of him, after looking at the painting, after looking and seeing and knowing—everything. Blaine squeezed his own biceps hard enough to make his bones ache. “Kurt, I…”
Kurt took a deep breath, then nodded, looking away and biting his bottom lip a little. “You would hate yourself.”
“I wish you wouldn’t.” Blaine looked up at that, at the tightness in Kurt’s voice. Kurt’s eyes were bright, welling full, and the sight of it was like a stab to the chest. “I wish… I wish I could make that better for you, take the stupid guilt and shame away from you.” Kurt took a deep breath. “They’re useless feelings—not always, maybe, but… with this, they are. Useless. I wish… I wish I could help you see—you’re… you’re such a good man, Blaine—”
“I’m not,” Blaine said, his voice hoarse and dry. “I’m really, really not.”
Kurt wiped his eyes with one hand, shaking his head again and smiling, sadly. “I guess… that’s just one thing we’re going to have to disagree on.” He reached out and touched Blaine’s shoulder—just briefly, and it was completely absurd to have Kurt comforting him in this situation—but that’s how it was. Kurt’s hand was warm, even through his shirt, there, and then gone.
Kurt sniffed, and wiped his eyes again, then drew himself up straight, his shoulders back. “Okay, Blaine—your painting is amazing and gorgeous and sexy and weird, and I love it. Now what’s for dinner?”
Dinner was seared farmed Tilapia with beurre piquant, sautéed red pepper and yellow squash, and wilted chard with sliced green apple, sourdough bread and butter on the side. Two pans, fifteen minutes, and Blaine almost didn’t get the plates to the table because oh my God he was utterly starving.
“Really, Mr. Anderson—you should be proud of the urbane, cultured existence you’ve managed to carve out for yourself, given that you were obviously raised by wolves.”
“Painting makes me hungry,” Blaine said semi-apologetically, his mouth full of bread. It was hard to chew and grin and talk all at the same time, but the joy of having Kurt make fun of him was eminently worth the effort. “Sorry.”
“You’re forgiven, but only because this is really, really good.” Kurt speared a chunk of squash, chewed it, swallowed, and sighed. “It’s been a while, since I had… anything like this.”
Which brought up the question—a whole host of questions, actually; most of which he probably shouldn’t ask. “Do you cook, at home—I mean, where you are now?”
“I can cook, yes, but I’m… I’m staying with a couple other guys, you know, the whole roommate situation, and they’re… it’s not really that homey. I don’t cook, there.”
Blaine finished the last of his chard, mopping up the juice with another piece of bread. “It doesn’t sound like you like it much.”
Kurt shrugged, that sardonic shine surfacing again. “It’s not that bad—at least they don’t ask a lot of questions. They’re kind of… into their own thing. But it’s better than… well, better than other places I’ve been. Much. And it’s what I can afford.”
“Mmm. Speaking of which—” Blaine wiped his hands on his napkin and dug his wallet out of his pocket, and put the stack of bills he’d collected from the smiling bank teller that morning (really, it felt like forever ago) down on the table, just to the left of Kurt’s fork. “Sorry to bring up business during dinner, but I didn’t want to forget.”
Kurt stared at the money for a moment, then looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Blaine. I admit, I’m not exactly familiar with the going rate for artists’ models who sit in a chair with all their clothes on for half an hour, but I feel fairly confident that it’s not…” he eyed the stack of bills again. “That much.”
“No.” Kurt’s cheeks were fiery red, and he looked… angry, actually angry. “I mean, if you want to be my sugar daddy, shouldn’t we at least be fucking?”
It was probably supposed to be shocking, supposed to hurt—but all of a sudden Blaine was laughing, laughing hard. Kurt stared at him for a moment with his eyes wide before he cracked, lifting his napkin off his lap and holding it over his face, snorting adorably.
Blaine wiped his eyes with his own napkin, and waited until Kurt trailed off to quiet giggles before he spoke again. “Listen, Kurt—let me tell you something, about money. There’s a certain amount of it that makes a huge difference in life—when you’re dealing with, you know, survival, issues of survival: it matters, it’s a big deal. A huge deal.” He shook his head. “But once you go over that amount—it doesn’t matter anywhere near as much. And people who think it does, well, they have issues.”
Kurt was silent, leaning back in his chair.
Blaine took the last slice of bread, and picked off bits of it as he went on, popping them in his mouth. “Now, I have this… terrifying shark of a lawyer—really, the guy is scary—who made sure that Disney gave me a decent deal. He also did my last publishing contract. Long story short, I am long past the point where I need to be concerned about the finances of survival—about my own, anyway.”
Kurt’s eyebrow arched gracefully, but he said nothing.
“So take the money, Kurt. It’s payment for your services today—and anything over and above that is… well, consider it a contribution to the Kurt-whatever-your-last-name-is survival fund. Okay?”
Kurt blinked. “Okay.”
Blaine sighed. “Thank you.”
“You’re a weird guy, Blaine.”
Blaine grinned. “Yeah.”
“But I like you.”
“I like you too, Kurt.”
A long pause, during which Kurt seemed to be studying him, assessing him. Then: “Hummel.”
Blaine blinked. “What?”
“My last name. It’s Hummel.”
Blaine took a breath. “Oh. Okay. I… thank you. I won’t abuse the knowledge.”
“Of course you won’t,” Kurt said, with a lift of his eyebrow. “After all, you’re a deeply honorable weirdo.”
“Oh, shut up,” Blaine said when Kurt started giggling again.
Kurt refused a lift home. “I need to walk, and I need to think, and I need… I need to try to put this day in perspective. Do you know what I mean?”
Blaine did. He needed a little perspective of his own. But once Kurt was gone all he seemed to be able to do was wander through the house, all too keenly aware that he was the only person in it. It seemed smaller. Darker. Like stumbling on ruins, empty and cold, and imagining the life and light that used to be there.
That was pretty much the thought that drove him to the whisky bottle. He wound up in the loft, sitting in the dusty velvet chair across from the painting with a glass in his hand and the bottle at his feet, wondering what the hell he was doing. Besides having some more damn whisky.
Tightrope walking: exhilaration and a strange kind of freedom, a heedless, headlong, lunatic balancing act in utter defiance of gravity. It was wonderful. Dangerous. Wonderful.
But he wasn’t the only one on the rope.
More whisky, yes, definitely. A lot more.
Because it was one thing to risk himself—that was fine, that was… more than fine. But it was another thing altogether to risk Kurt, to draw Kurt out over the abyss with just a promise (to himself, since he was the one who required it) to hold on, when all it would take was one misstep, one moment of misjudgment, one tiny fraction of a slip—to fall. It would be so easy. So easy to tumble Kurt into his lap, so easy to kiss the virgin sweetness out of his mouth, so easy to take him and break him open, to lose himself in the pure intoxication of innocence like a sweet, strong, smoky hit of some exotic drug—
That damn painting. Kurt, staring and sensual and unafraid of him, unafraid of anything. Blaine groaned and abandoned his glass on the arm of the chair while he attacked the fly of his jeans with both hands, his thighs cramping up and his balls heavy, desperate, aching. He jerked off with savage, reckless speed, bitter, guilty strokes that brought as much pain as pleasure, only a few wretched moments before he came, dry-sobbing, pushing into his own fist and staring at Kurt’s beautiful, beautiful face and—sorry. So sorry, Kurt. So very, very sorry.
“I brought you coffee,” Kurt said by way of greeting, sweeping through the open door on a waft of wonderful smells—cool morning air, coffee, and Kurt. A pyrrole-red fitted shirt and white skinny jeans, a tight black cardigan with a subtle plaid pattern, the ubiquitous high boots. He looked dazzling. Edible. Sixteen.
“I have a coffee maker, you know.”
Kurt gave him a look as he set both cups down on the kitchen table and divested himself of his leather satchel. “I’m aware of that—you made me some yesterday.”
“There’s a ‘j’accuse’ somewhere in there, I know it.”
“You make trucker coffee, Blaine.” He sighed. “You’re an artist, in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and you make coffee that is startlingly akin to the swill available at freeway truck stops across this great nation.”
Blaine smiled despite himself. “I didn’t realize that coffee snobbery was compulsory for artists.”
Kurt sniffed. “Well, now you know.”
Blaine took the cup Kurt offered him, sipped, and grinned. “Mmm… bourgeois.”
Kurt’s laugh made him flush warm, right down to his toes.
Kurt touched the piano keys softly, a quiet, interrogative run of notes. “Is everything okay? You seem… tired.”
Blaine glanced up briefly. “It’s… I’m fine.” Back to the battery pack in his camera. “Uh. I’m a little hung over, that’s all.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Wild night out?”
Blaine snorted softly. “Wild night in.”
“I see.” Blaine was absorbed in trying to get his eyes to focus on his light meter, and didn’t even realize Kurt was there until—Kurt was there, taking it out of his hand. “Is it… was it because of me?”
Blaine blinked. “Not everything is about you, Kurt.”
Those eyes, steady at him. “That’s not an answer.”
When he didn’t say anything, Kurt stared at him for a few more seconds, then frowned, looking away, his fine eyebrows drawn low. “All right. Look, Blaine, I’m just going to go—”
“What? I—no, Kurt, don’t go. I’m fine, okay?” The thought of Kurt leaving made his stomach lurch uneasily, the air crowding against his skin like a sudden drop in barometric pressure. “I just need to… I’ll slow down today, just take some easy shots, and we can—”
“Blaine.” Kurt’s voice was sharp, but steady. There were two red spots high up on his cheeks. “I get it, okay? I do. You’re conflicted. You feel guilty. I know.” He bit his lip, then went on. “I can’t stop you from feeling any of those things—and I’m not an idiot, so I’m not even going to try. But I can’t… I’m not okay with knowing I’m the reason you drank too much last night. I’m not ever going to be okay with that.” He looked at Blaine then, angry and defiant. “I won’t be a weapon you use to hurt yourself with, Blaine. I refuse.”
Blaine stared at him—the stubborn tilt of his chin, the staunch, amazing, ageless person regarding him from behind those remarkable eyes—and then it hit him, like a rainstorm out of nowhere that drenched him to the skin in seconds.
It wasn’t lust. It wasn’t infatuation. It wasn’t even some doomed variety of artistic obsession. He was in love. Absolutely. Awfully. Irrevocably. In love. With a sixteen-year-old runaway boy he barely knew, who might vanish into the ether tomorrow.
It was hard to breathe. It was dark—but no, that was just because he had his eyes closed. Because he needed a moment. Just a moment.
“Blaine? Oh my God, Blaine, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled at you—”
“Kurt, don’t—” he shook his head, squeezing his temples. “Don’t be sorry. Just… give me a second, okay?” He opened his eyes, pierced by the light, pierced by Kurt, and the desire to reach out (softly, he would do it so softly and gently, with such reverence) was like a fire in him, setting everything it touched to burn. He turned away instead, and sat down on the bay window seat with his head in his hands.
“Blaine, what’s wrong with—”
“I don’t really want to work today,” Blaine said, his voice faint and weak to his own ears. “I’m not feeling quite up to it.” That was true enough, as far as it went. “I just… maybe you could just… play and sing for me? For a little while?”
Kurt’s hand on his back—Kurt comforting him again, ridiculous and ridiculously effective, that simple, warm touch. “I… of course I will, Blaine. Of course.”
It was one of those experiences—like the first time he’d finished a full-size painting, the first time he’d seen San Francisco shining at him from across the water, the first time he’d ever touched another man—that inhabited its own moment, rich and dense and deeply present; something he was sure he would never forget. Blaine curled up on his side in the window seat with a throw pillow under his head, and looked, and listened.
The day was overcast outside, the light grey and cool. Kurt played quietly—just the piano at first, but then he seemed to forget he had an audience (Blaine saw him slip away, giving himself up to it a little bit at a time, and it was so good, seeing that). Once he started singing he didn’t stop—one song melted into the next, and there were endless, lulling harmonies that Blaine could almost see floating in front of him, graceful in the soft light. Crystal notes, and that soaring, lovely voice, impossibly high and pure.
Blaine laid still and listened, nestling himself around the warm glow deep in his chest.
The first time he’d ever fallen in love.
When the front door closed with a soft thump—Kurt, gone for the day; coming back tomorrow, but, gone again—Blaine felt a quick, light stirring of panic low in his stomach. A sense of unease, distrust of himself, because after last night and after today, God knows what he was going to get up to, trying to come to terms with… all of it.
He kept a close eye on himself as he straightened things up in the loft, in the living room. As he returned some of the phone messages he’d been ignoring. Ditto e-mail. As he did some laundry. Made himself dinner, and ate it. Did the dishes. Took a shower. And then it was barely past ten p.m. and he was in bed—sleepy and warm and comfortable, and wow this was really some kind of extreme acting out on his part, this reckless, desperate attempt to acclimate himself to the shock and drama of it all by being mundane and domestic and responsible—
“Kurt, you are a bad influence on me,” he said out loud in the darkness—and good, that was good, at least he was talking to himself when nobody was there; that was suitably crazy-lovesick-wacko to be going on with.
Blaine closed his eyes with a satisfied sigh.
The phone. Was ringing. Blaine starfished for a moment, his brain angry and resentful and his body still deeply asleep, but the buzzing kept going on, because some asshole was calling him at—he peered blurrily over at his bedside clock—2:43 in the motherfucking morning.
The haze of muddled anger persisted until he actually got his phone in his hand and looked at the screen—Kurt. He blinked and really opened his eyes for the first time as he pushed the button.
“Kurt—are you okay?”
“Blaine.” Kurt sounded… winded, his voice tight. “I’m really, really sorry to call you at this hour, but I… I need a favor. I’m… I had to leave, where I’ve been staying, and normally I’d just go to a hotel but because of my little documentation problem, the only places I can go without showing ID or having a credit card are all in the parts of town I try not to go to by myself at this hour—”
“Where are you?” Blaine groped to turn on the light and almost sent his lamp toppling to the floor. “Of course you can—you can stay here, anything, I can—I’ll come get you.” He found sweatpants and tugged them on, found a shirt and put it on inside-out and discovered it was pretty impossible to button that way, so fuck it—“I’m… are you hurt? Did you get hurt?”
“I’m fine, Blaine,” Kurt said, but he didn’t sound fine at all. He sounded exhausted. Blaine took the stairs in the near-total darkness, navigating by familiarity, and headed for the front door. “And you don’t need to come get me—”
“I’m coming to get you,” Blaine said implacably. “Just tell me where you are. I’m on my way… right now,” he finished lamely, opening the door to see Kurt standing there with his phone in his hand.
Kurt turned his phone off. “Hi. Sorry. I kind of took it for granted that you were probably going to let me in.”
Blaine found the light switch by feel. Kurt was pale—even for him, with dark shadows under his eyes. His lips were bloodless, set in a firm line. There was a large duffel bag at his feet.
Blaine leaned forward, and picked up the bag. It was heavy. He held the door open. “Come in.”
Not pushing. He was not going to push. He turned on the lights, settled Kurt in at the kitchen table, and kept his attention firmly on the mechanics of making tea (it was the only thing he could think of to offer, other than whisky, which, no). He didn’t say anything at all until he had two mugs of lemon-ginger on the table, until he was seated across from Kurt, who was staring at the wall as if it was somehow fascinating.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Kurt took a breath. “Not really,” he said, then dropped his head with a wry half-smile, “but I’m going to. I figure an explanation is the very least I can offer, after waking you up at this hour.”
“You don’t owe me,” Blaine said, and Kurt’s eyes darted toward him. “I don’t… you don’t have to tell me anything, and if you’re just telling me because you feel like you owe me—I’d rather you didn’t.”
Kurt looked at him for a long moment. Blaine was just never going to get used to that frank, assessing, adult look from such a young face. “Blaine. You’re a problem-solver.”
“You like to solve people’s problems. You’re generous—and solving problems is another way you… another kind of generosity. You’re… open. Kind. You like to help.”
Blaine felt his cheeks get hot. “Okay. And that’s bad because…?”
“It’s not bad,” Kurt said gently. “I’m not telling you it’s bad. What I’m trying to tell you is… that makes it hard for me. To tell you things.”
“Because you don’t want me to solve your problems.”
Kurt raised an eyebrow. “This isn’t ‘teenage rebellion’ or ‘just an independent streak’, Blaine. I am sitting across from you right now because… because some time ago I made the decision to solve my own problems—that I had to. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Blaine felt something creep into the room—darkness, only not visible. It felt like a weight, unbearable and oppressive and inescapable. “Kurt.” He stopped to clear his throat, because that wasn’t much more than a croak. “What happened to you?”
Kurt closed his eyes for a long moment. When he opened them, the sense of gloom vanished. “Someday, I’ll tell you. But not today.”
Blaine drank some tea. It was hot, soothing. “Okay. So… for right now you’re going to tell me what happened tonight, and I’m going to try not to solve any of your problems, right?”
“That’s the deal. Think you can handle it?”
“I can handle it.”
“Okay.” Kurt sipped his tea, and kept both hands around his mug when he put it down, staring into it. “I’ve been staying with these two guys, straight guys—they advertised for a roommate, and the place was run-down and in a not-so-great neighborhood, so I could afford it. The two of them… they went to college together, and now they live together, and drink together and smoke pot together and play video games and bitch about their crappy jobs together.”
Kurt shrugged. “Not an ideal situation. But they didn’t ask questions—didn’t even seem to know I existed. But tonight, one of them went out with some girl he’s hot for, and the other one must have felt left out of things, because he got drunk—like, really drunk, drunker than I’ve ever seen him—and then he showed up in my room. He called me a cock-tease, told me to stop being such a prim, tight-assed little bitch, and tried to make me give him a blowjob.” Kurt looked at him levelly, calmly. “I pushed him down. Then I took my stuff, and I left. I’m not going back.”
Blaine could see a pattern like veins, pulsing—only it was just his eyes. He’d never seen that before. It was… interesting, in an abstract way, to the part of his brain that wasn’t boiling with rage. “Kurt.” He bit down on what wanted to come out next. And the thing after that. And the thing after that, too. “I want to solve your problems, Kurt.”
Kurt’s mouth twisted, just a little. “Fight it.”
“And I want to kill that guy.”
“Or at least maim him a little.”
“You can’t.” Kurt took a deep breath. “You don’t know where I was living, or who I was living with—I didn’t even mention a name. I did that on purpose, because you’re a problem-solver—and this problem is solved. I’m out. There’s nothing else to do—I can’t report him to the police, because he didn’t actually hurt me, and because… I can’t go to the police.”
Blaine closed his eyes. Impotent rage, and sadness that felt… almost infinite. “Will you tell me when—” he had to stop to swallow.
“When… there’s something I can do to help. Will you—when there’s anything, will you tell me? Please?”
When he opened his eyes, Kurt was smiling at him tiredly. “Hey, Blaine, remember that time I woke you up in the middle of the night and asked you for a place to stay?”
Oh, right. Blaine blew out a long, slow breath and dropped his head, rubbing both hands through his hair. “Okay.”
He lifted his head. Kurt was looking at him with such fondness, such gentle and genuine affection, that Blaine’s chest ached. “Just… give me a little time, okay?”
“To get… to get used to it. To let you help. I just need some time. Can you give me that?”
Blaine swallowed, hard. “I would give you anything.”
Kurt shook his head, smiling softly. “Okay. But really, all I want right now is a horizontal surface to pass out on.”
Blaine got up from the table, and picked up Kurt’s duffel bag from where he’d stashed it. “You got it. Come on.”
The spare bedroom he never used was full of frilly, antique things—everything that didn’t quite fit in the rest of the house had wound up there, somehow. Kurt surveyed it with a sleepy smile. “Your Grandma must go nuts when she comes to visit you.”
“Sorry—I know it’s kind of… fluffy—”
“I’m just tweaking your nose for the pure joy of it, Blaine—and because you make the cutest faces when you’re agonizing over your hospitality. It’s lovely. Very Golden-Age-of-Hollywood-boudoir; I would brush my hair a thousand strokes before bed if I weren’t utterly ready to collapse.” He blinked at Blaine. “Thank you, for letting me stay.”
“Any time, Kurt.” Kurt was close, heavy-eyed and sleepy and vulnerable, and Blaine had to curl his hands into fists so they wouldn’t reach out. “I… guess I’ll say good-night.”
In his own bed, in the cool darkness, sleep was impossible for a long time. In the end, it was only the knowledge that Kurt was in the house—safe and asleep and just down the hall—that let him drop his eyes shut.
He knew Kurt was gone before he even opened his eyes—he didn’t know how he knew; he just did. He found a note downstairs on the refrigerator; written in neat, rounded script:
Blaine—don’t panic, I’ll be back for my stuff this evening. I have some things I need to take care of, after yesterday. Thanks again for letting me stay, it was VERY HELPFUL. Love, Kurt.
There was a smiley face and a flower doodle. Blaine stared at the note for a long time, not even trying to suppress his dopey, enchanted grin.
He folded the note carefully, and slipped it into his wallet; feeling like a complete idiot, and regretting it not at all.
It was wonderful, what a judicious combination of money and motivation could do.
Blaine kept the antique wood bedframe, but he got a new mattress, box spring, pillows and bedding. Lighter curtains and shades for the windows, a new dresser, and a wardrobe (the closet was fine for a guest room, but completely inadequate for a Kurt room). A desk, a computer. A sound dock. Throw rugs. Lamps. Candles. A glass bowl of fresh flowers.
Watching the room come together, piece by piece as delivery men brought things and took other things away, was a slightly eerie experience—everything so modern and spare and light in his old, crowded, rattletrap of a house, dark woods and cool blue and grey fabrics, simple textures—it was like seeing a piece of his house peeled away, a schism in the space of things, odd and out of place.
But he thought, with Kurt in the middle of it, it would look perfect.
Kurt said yes to Blaine’s proposal of salad and shrimp risotto when he returned, so Blaine started washing lettuce and let Kurt head upstairs by himself. He made it about five minutes before a mix of uncertainty, worry, and hope overcame all his efforts to focus on food rather than any possible sounds from overhead.
Kurt was standing in the middle of the guest room, looking around slowly. His face was unreadable.
Blaine cleared his throat. “If you don’t like it, we can get other stuff. I kind of had to guess at what you might like.”
Kurt didn’t say anything. He reached out with one hand and touched the flowers, gently.
“I thought… at least here you’d be safe, that you’d have your own space, your own—”
Kurt walked towards him slowly, and his eyes were so blue, in the room—perfect, yes, it was perfect with Kurt in it—only Kurt looked sad and solemn, and Blaine’s stomach folded in on itself. “Blaine. It’s not going to matter, you know.”
“It… what? What won’t matter?”
“It doesn’t matter that we’re not lovers. If the wrong people found out that you were living with a sixteen-year-old—a boy, your career would be over. This… this is amazing, Blaine, it’s incredible and wonderful and I can’t tell you how much it… but it’s not—it wouldn’t be safety for me. It would just put both of us in danger. Force both of us into hiding.” His voice was soft, regretful. “I don’t think… I can’t do that to you.”
Kurt’s face was all he could see, and all he wanted to do was take it in his hands, run his thumbs and his lips over those soft eyebrows, smooth cheeks, the umbrae curve under his bottom lip. He didn’t. “I don’t… hey. It’s up to me, if I want to take that chance, okay? And I’m not hiding. I’m not afraid.” He took a breath. “I’m not afraid. Stay with me. Let this be your home. Please?”
“Blaine, don’t…” Kurt took his hand, squeezing it gently, his bright eyes directed at the floor. “Don’t let me hurt you. Don’t ever let me hurt you.”
Blaine squeezed back, memorizing silk-soft skin under the pad of his thumb. “Is that a yes?”
Kurt blinked, breathing out through his barely-open mouth. “It’s… yes.”
One tug—that’s all it would take. One gentle pull to guide Kurt into his arms, take time wrapping him up, savor the warmth and fit and fierceness and boyishness of him, then take him by the gentle curve of his neck, fit his palm just there, and… Blaine took a step back, and let go of Kurt’s hand. “Okay. Good. Want to help me make dinner?”
Kurt was quiet at first, until Blaine caught him smiling ruefully down at the shrimp he was peeling.
“What is it?”
Kurt flashed a quick glance at him, then shook his head, his mouth quirked. “I told you—last night, when you said you wanted to help—I told you I needed some time.”
Blaine grinned, leaning back against the counter with his arms folded across his chest. “Yeah, but, that was last night. So… how about now? Is now good?
Kurt dropped the shrimp and burst out laughing—shocked-sounding laughter, rolling through him while he leaned on the cutting board. “You are completely ridiculous.”
Blaine shrugged. “I prefer to think of myself as ‘enchantingly whimsical’, or maybe ‘refreshingly free of orthodox paradigms’—”
“Oh my god.”
Dinner was perfect—Kurt had a better touch (and more patience) with risotto than he did. Blaine focused on the food until the roaring in his stomach died down (he’d skipped both breakfast and lunch), so it took him a while to realize that Kurt was eyeing him speculatively.
“What? Do I have rice in my hair or something?”
Kurt put his fork down, and laced his fingers together over his plate. “Did you really pick out all that stuff up there?”
Blaine straightened his shoulders. “You don’t need to sound so skeptical, you know—I am an artist, I do have a… a heightened sense of color and texture and, you know, space…”
Kurt gave him a look. It was… a pretty impressive look, from a kid.
Blaine cleared his throat. “Okay, so I went to Saks and I threw myself on the mercy of an ennui-laden sales clerk, and I begged him to help me put together the most expensive and tasteful things they had.”
Kurt’s eyebrow arched. “That’s pretty much what I thought.”
Kurt went upstairs after they finished doing the dishes. Blaine made himself some coffee (Kurt had declined with his adorable mouth pouted into a moue of distaste), then drank it leaning against the counter with the kitchen lights off. There was enough light coming from upstairs, from the open door of Kurt’s room—Kurt’s room. There was light and music, and Blaine drank his coffee slowly, listening to Kurt singing along with… something, some pop Goddess he didn’t recognize (oh, but he undoubtedly would before the week was out), feeling the house shift around him—different, now; a home for two.
Blaine crept upstairs quietly, heading for the third floor—the itch in his brain and his hands was demanding it of him, despite his physical exhaustion. From the stairs he could see Kurt, moving, turning; there were various items of clothing scattered everywhere, and the duffel bag lay puddled and empty at the foot of the bed. Kurt had three hangers in one hand and a pair of pants in the other, and he was humming, and he looked entirely gorgeous and radiantly happy.
Blaine breathed deep when he got to the loft, savoring the smells of linseed oil and resin, juniper and linen—the smells of creation—then put his coffee down on the desk, and got to work.
It was past five in the morning when he finally scratched his name and the year into the paint with the back of the brush, and he was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open, now that the adrenaline high was finally starting to wear off. He tossed his brush aside and flipped off all the lights except for one studio lamp he left trained on the canvas, then sank down into the armchair and let himself look.
The visual memory of Kurt playing the piano for him had blurred a little, but his emotional recall of that particular moment was absolutely crystal-clear, so he’d painted from that. The result was… diaphanous, a gauzy, soft-focus effect that he’d never achieved before, his brushstrokes longer, softer, more lingering. It was so… light, much lighter than his usual work, open-edged but intimate, the room warm and the piano glowing and the beautiful boy, singing. Textures and gloss, the aching, elegant curve of Kurt’s wrists, the curl of his fingers perfect, perfect—
The lightness was a fairytale, he realized, scratching his stubbled chin with a half-amused, half-rueful grin. The painting was exactly the sort of thing he would have come up with if he’d been seventeen instead of thirty-four, if Kurt had been his high-school sweetheart—if Blaine been able to walk up to him in the hallway, take his hand, and kiss his pretty lips with impunity. A cupid-and-roses fantasy, embarrassingly juvenile, and now he was vaguely tempted to grab a bucket of white primer and obliterate the whole thing before anyone else could ever see it—only he was so tired, so very tired…
Also, he kind of secretly loved it.
He woke up to Kurt, and coffee, and a crick in his neck that made him wince. “Ow—I can’t believe I slept here.”
Kurt shook his head. “I can’t believe you came up here and worked after setting up that room all day.” He handed Blaine a steaming mug. “Here, this should help. That coffeehouse over on Dolores sells Counterculture Farmhouse Organic by the pound.” He turned and walked towards the canvas, now glowing and brilliant in the late-morning light streaming through the windows. “What’s it called?”
“The Muse.” Blaine drank some coffee, and decided he didn’t need to mourn the fact that Folgers had been banished from the house.
Kurt looked at the painting for a long time. Blaine looked at Kurt. Pegged jeans, a soft-looking charcoal grey shirt, and a black brocade fitted vest that laced up the back, hugging the incurve of his spine and calling attention to the soft swell of his rounded ass—fuck. He made sure he was looking elsewhere when Kurt turned around, blushing a little, smiling wickedly. “Blaine Anderson—you big romantic softie, you.”
“Oh shut up.”
“I think you should call it I Like You Do You Like Me Check Yes Or No—”
“I’m gonna call it Kurt Hummel Is A Fucking Jerk if you don’t shut up.”
Kurt laughed and had the temerity to pinch his cheek, darting away and cackling when Blaine slapped at him.
Kurt blasted pop music and show tunes at all hours. He got Blaine addicted to organic coffee. He ridiculed Blaine’s taste in clothes and grooming products, dragged him to the Castro Theatre with relentless regularity and utterly no regard to what might be playing, and was nearly impossible to dislodge from any vintage store that caught him in its orbit and sucked him in (which was every one they happened to walk by).
It was maddening and exasperating and completely awesome, and Blaine wouldn’t have given up a second of it for anything. He had sketchbooks all over the house, filled with bits of Kurt—the curve of his cheek, the spare, sweet line of his scapulae under his thinnest shirt, the tender nape of his neck, his dimples and his eyebrows and the tilt of his nose and his temples and his knees and his fingers—Blaine had a favorite, the index finger on Kurt’s left hand, and in the sketches it took on a personality all its own, bitchy and deeply sardonic. Which was why it was his favorite, of course.
The Diva Domesticans Trio followed—watercolors from sketches done both fast and slow, immediate and bright and open like Kurt was open—but there was no grand rolling back of the mystery he carried, no climactic reveal—just hints. Teases. Music and lyrics worn like costumes, illuminated, adopted, and animated by performance. I featured Kurt (in a red porkpie hat, tight red jeans and a snug short-sleeved black shirt—an ensemble that had made Blaine’s attempt to cook the parts of dinner he was responsible for into a hamfisted travesty), whirling on the kitchen floor to Born This Way, snarling and raw and sexual and fearless, wielding a wooden spoon like a mic.
II caught Kurt (jeans and a fluffy white high-necked sweater that made Blaine ache at the virginal sweetness of it), curled up on the padded seat of the bay window with his legs tucked under him, just the profile and the lashes and the modest tuck of his head as he sewed a button on one of his shirts, singing along with Adele with the rain outside coming down like the world was melting. He’d spent hours on the sketch (the sweater sleeves pushed up to Kurt’s elbows, and each hair on his forearms, the backlit peach fuzz of his cheek, the deep warmth of the thick sweater—all of it had to be just so), and the finished work was the most hushed, intimate, reverent thing he’d ever done.
III was Beyoncé and blues and adorable brattiness, and an echo of the first night, when he’d glimpsed Kurt moving in. Kurt (in a navy fitted cardigan, cobalt-blue shirt and carefully distressed steel-blue jeans) arranging the new flowers that Blaine brought him for the glass bowl in his room, belting out Single Ladies, saucy and pouty and irresistibly cute. Blaine was lucky to get the quick sketch he did, because Kurt chucked a handful of cut stems at him when Blaine called him Sasha-not-quite-as-Fierce, and the resulting scowl would have ruined things.
“I still can’t get it, though,” Blaine said, standing in the middle of the loft with Kurt, surveying the three pieces side-by-side, and feeling a little dizzy from paint fumes and loveliness.
“Can’t get what?”
“How you sound—your voice. I keep trying, but I just… can’t. I don’t know how to translate that to paint—in a way I could keep.”
“Hm. Doesn’t that snazzy digital camera of yours take video?”
Oh, he was a fucking idiot.
He started filming Kurt that day. The day after that, he went shopping for an actual camcorder with better sound quality.
“Why are you filming this, Blaine?”
“…because it’s artistically relevant?”
“Me chopping mushrooms is artistically relevant?”
“Yes. It’s a—a political statement. On the politics of, of…”
Kurt sniffed. “I smell Hugo Boss Prize. Oh wait, no—that’s your fucking omelet. Now put the camera away, Blaine.”
He invited Kurt to Cambria for the weekend. “I really want to show you the house I have there—it’s this crazy place, it was built by this turn-of-the-century architect after he retired, and I think he must have resented all the people who asked him to build normal, boring old houses, because—”
Kurt squinted at him. “You have another house?”
Blaine licked his lips. “Two, actually. There’s one on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle.” Kurt’s eyebrow went up. “Look, I don’t… I never wanted eighteen cars or a host of bronzed pool-boys or designer q-tips or… any of that. But I like houses. Old houses. And odd things. To put in the houses.” Kurt’s other eyebrow went up. “Look, come to Cambria with me. They have vintage stores, antiques; um, stuff—”
“Oh, stuff. Well, you know me, Blaine—I can’t resist the lure of stuff…”
In Cambria, someone’s wolfhound that had gotten off-leash discovered their shaded picnic spot under a spreading oak, and within five minutes Kurt had the massive dog paws-up on his back, the giant, toothy head pressed with desperate affection against Kurt’s outstretched legs, shuddering and whining with joy when Kurt scratched his chest. Blaine shuddered in sympathy and grabbed his sketchbook, and when they got back he spent three days painting Taming at Moonstone. The dog wasn’t really a dog anymore, and the backdrop was deep, dense, misty forest rather than the innocent open oaks of Moonstone Beach, but Kurt was still in the vibrant red shirt, white skinny jeans and tall boots, still remote and amused and sexily self-assured, gorgeously teasing as the dark wolf-monster-thing died of love under the touch of his fine, white fingers.
Kurt laughed hysterically when he saw it, then looked again and fell quiet, finally nodding approval. “The world needs more dark, gay, kinky fairy tales,” He said. “Now, come make dinner with me, okay?”
That was life, and life was good—the richest, happiest time Blaine could remember. But.
Kurt screamed, sometimes, in his sleep. Not often, but when it happened and Blaine staggered across the hall and into Kurt’s room to wake him, he could feel it—like a residue in the air, sticky and oppressive and awful, madness and darkness and no escape. He shook Kurt until he woke, brought him tea and left him with the lights on when Kurt curled in on himself, facing away, refusing all offers of help, all inquiries, all attempts to talk. Leaving Blaine with nothing but fear and frustration and the constant, nagging urge to fix it, whatever it was.
It wasn’t always what he thought. He woke up and heard Kurt and went for him, opening the door to find Kurt asleep with all the blankets kicked off, bathed in moonlight and dressed only in an undershirt and boxer-briefs, clearly hard and gently thrashing and moaning his name. Blaine almost went to his knees, and then he could see himself doing just that, crawling forward and leveraging himself up and into that innocent bed, into Kurt’s white arms, invading that softly open mouth and slipping his hands inch by inch up those succulent, bare thighs, just an incubus invoked through the power of adolescent desire—
“Blaine,” Kurt wasn’t awake, not really—but his eyes fluttered a little as he drew one hand up his own torso, pushing the undershirt up and baring the most delectable waist, tender belly and the luscious dip of his navel, God, oh God—“You kissed me, and then the world exploded.” Soft and high and dreamy, sex-drenched and utterly boyish and Blaine was going to fucking die of a heart attack right in the doorway of Kurt’s bedroom
“Go back to sleep, Kurt, okay?” his own voice was whisper-low, hoarse and ragged, but Kurt didn’t seem to notice.
“Okay.” A soft sigh. “You feel so good, Blaine.”
He almost didn’t make it back to his room.
“You know, Blaine,” Quinn purred in his ear—the dangerous purr, the one that meant he was about to be on the receiving end of a righteous ass-kicking. “If you’re going to utterly ignore all your friends, we’re going to be forced to collaborate on theories about why you’re hiding. I’m personally rooting for a hideously embarrassing combination of acne, goiters and male pattern baldness, but—”
“I’m so sorry, Quinn,” Blaine sighed, settling down at the kitchen table with the phone pressed to his ear. From upstairs there was no music, just rapid clicks of the keyboard—Kurt was typing again. “I’ve been busy, and I… I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Blaine—I know how you are when you fall in a hole. As long as I get beautiful canvases for the new book out of it, I’m willing to forgive you.”
Blaine said nothing, but that was okay, because she went on without him. “So, look, Blaine—I was really looking forward to seeing you, goiters and all, but I’m not going to be able to make it to Tina’s premiere—mother has decided to make one of her pilgrimages to the Sodom and Gomorrah of the left coast, and since her dream ticket for President is Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, I don’t think she’d really enjoy attending a premiere benefit for a queer teen shelter. …Although I’d certainly enjoy watching her at it, if only to see if her face would freeze that way—”
“Oh my God—Tina’s premiere,” Blaine murmured, rubbing his forehead. “I can’t believe I forgot.”
“You have been in a hole—what have you been up to?”
“Working, I’m… trying some things.”
Quinn perked up a little. “Like, things that we could build your next contract around? Are these bestseller-blockbuster-box-office-gold things?
“Oh, fine. Artists, I swear… okay, Blaine. You enjoy being all mysterious and tortured and at one with your artistic vision, but just remember—you show whatever you’ve got to me first. Then we plan. Then we talk about pitching—the teasing, not the pleasing.”
“Quinn—of course. I know I could never do it without you.” That much was absolutely true—his own head for business was laughably bad. Quinn was a fucking genius at it. But there was no way he was ever going to show her the canvases he had stashed upstairs no matter how much of a genius she was.
“Then I will anxiously await the next masterpiece I’ll have to blackmail you into signings for—oh, hey, whatever happened with Pinocchio, anyway?”
“Your little teenage dream? The French-fry kid? Oh, God, Blaine—please tell me you didn’t take advantage of his blazingly obvious crush on you—”
“No,” Blaine said through numb lips. “I… I never touched him.”
“Good boy.” She sighed. “I can’t blame you, though—they’re so pretty when they’re young, aren’t they? I’m finding myself ogling my pool-boy these days, feeling like such a dirty old lady—”
“You are gorgeous, and lovely, and forever perfect,” Blaine said soothingly. “The eternal Prom Queen.”
“Save the butter for some tall and dashing stranger—you’re past-due for one,” Quinn said, but he could hear that she was smiling. “I’m really, really sorry that you won’t get to see mother—that time you took us out to dinner at La Folie after I slipped and mentioned the guy you were sleeping with was a truly wonderful experience.”
Blaine grinned. “I can’t believe she shrieked and ran when I said ‘boo’, honestly—”
Quinn snorted. “Oh, the bitter tears that were shed in the ladies’ room—she’ll never forgive you for not marrying me, Blaine. She was counting on it for fifteen years.” Quinn sniffed. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too. Why don’t you give me a call when the coast is clear, and we’ll do something decadent and outrageous that would scandalize your mother into fits?”
“Oh, you mean, like, me eating a taco, or leaving the house without a slip on?” Quinn said dryly, then sighed. “Okay, it’s a date. Excelsior, and all that—wish me luck, and pray for my sanity.”
Kurt was at his desk, still typing, when Blaine stopped to lean against the open door. “Writing your life history?”
Kurt glanced at him briefly, with a quirk of his mouth. “No, I’m sexually propositioning older men on the internet who own more than three houses. I’m upwardly mobile.” He stopped typing, clicked the mouse, and turned towards the door. “What’s up?”
“There’s a premiere—a benefit thing—tomorrow night, that I’m supposed to go to.”
“In San Francisco?”
“It’s a documentary premiere, not a Hollywood flick. My friend, Tina Cohen-Chang, she makes documentaries—and this is her new one, it’s about, um. Gay teens who end up homeless after coming out.”
Kurt blinked, slow and steady, nothing showing on his face.
Blaine cleared his throat. “Would you like to go with me?”
Kurt tilted his head, rocking back in his chair a little. “Of course, Blaine—I’d love to go.”
Kurt watched the film with his face carefully set, his lips pressed together—when he wasn’t nibbling on his fingers. Afterwards, Blaine lost track of him when he went for drinks—but finally spotted Kurt standing in a quiet corner of the patio, talking to Tina. Blaine didn’t intrude. He drank his wine and wrote a check to the shelter that the benefit was for, then chatted with Mike a little. Then Mike floated away but Tina was there, accepting his congratulations with a serene smile while giving him a soft, velvety hug.
“Come with me,” she whispered in his ear. “I need to smoke so badly I’m about to start chewing my hair.”
In the alley outside the theater she lit up a clove and then leaned back against the bricks, sighing heavily. Her hair had crimson and indigo streaks, and in her lacy black velvet she looked like a teenage girl playing dress-up in old-fashioned clothes, barely older than the kids in her film. Blaine tucked an escaped indigo lock back behind her ear. “It was really good, Tina. Painful, but good.”
She shrugged. “I’ll feel a lot better about it tomorrow, when I curl up on the couch with Mike and watch it with just the two of us. I hate these things—the fundraising, even though it’s for a good cause—and all the producers, the bean-counters, losing their shit trying to figure out if they’ve hooked themselves to the next Shoah or not.” She blew smoke, and grinned. “Mike’s in his element, though.”
Blaine grinned back. “He did seem to be basking in the glow of being Mr. Tina Cohen-Chang.”
She snorted delicately, and high-fived him. He leaned against the wall next to her, shook his head when she offered him the cigarette.
“A year and a half of work,” she said softly, gazing up at the slice of stars that were visible from the alley. “I can’t believe it’s over. But some of them—I’m going to see their faces for the rest of my life.”
“Speaking of which—I met your friend Kurt. At least, he said he was here with you—”
Blaine swallowed. “He is.”
She drew in smoke, hissing a little. “I can’t believe you haven’t told me. How long have you been together?”
Blaine felt his cheeks go hot. “Been—no, Tina, we’re not. He’s modeling for me, and he was… in a bad living situation, so I invited him to move in, but we’re… not. No.”
“I see. I’m sorry, Blaine—it was a simple mistake. When I talked to him, it was clear that he cares for you very much, that’s all.” She tapped ash off her cigarette, an elegant, practiced gesture. “You know he’s… been through some stuff, right?”
He turned his head towards her, studying her profile. “He told you? Did he tell you what—”
“He didn’t tell me anything,” she said quietly. “I just… I know it when I see it, that’s all—I ought to, by now. He came up and thanked me for making the film, and congratulated me, and asked some questions—smart questions. Very smart questions—”
“He’s a smart kid.”
“He’s… I don’t think he’s really a kid, Blaine. But don’t let the poise, the shine, fool you—he’s not really an adult, either.” A plume of smoke, slow and steady. “He’s a person—a person who’s been hurt, a person who’s trying to survive as best he can.”
Blaine closed his eyes. “He’s sixteen.”
“He’s a runaway.”
“And… I’m in love with him, Tina.” Blaine opened his eyes, staring up at the stars while they blurred in his vision. “I’m totally fucking head-over-heels for him, and I can’t—I never want to hurt him. Ever. I’m not… I’ve never touched him, I can’t touch him—but not-touching him feels like it’s killing me.”
“Oh, honey—” she tossed the clove away and wrapped him up, and Blaine pushed his wet face into her velvet-covered shoulder and tried to steady his breathing. Her hand on the back of his neck was cool, soothing. “I’m so sorry, Blaine—I’m sorry this is so hard for you. For both of you.”
“What can—what should I do?”
“Just… be there, Blaine. If you really want to help him, and not hurt him—just be there, if he needs you. Because he’s probably going to need you. That’s all you can do.”
Kurt was quiet on the drive home. Blaine stayed quiet too, until he started wondering whether ‘being there’ meant being quiet, or talking. “Everything okay?”
“Yes,” Kurt said succinctly, and left it at that.
Blaine waited, but nothing else seemed to be forthcoming. “Okay, well, I just want you to know, I’m here for you, if you need to talk, or, you know, if you need… anything.”
“Um… anything?” Oh, lame. Lame, lame, lame. “Anything you might need.”
Silence reigned supreme for the rest of the drive home.
Kurt would need time, of course, time to process everything—Blaine still had no idea whether Kurt’s history or experiences were at all similar to any of the kids they’d seen in the film, but he was willing to bet that something he’d seen had struck home for him, so—he’d need time.
Blaine retreated to his bedroom to give Kurt the run of the house, should he need it—only he hadn’t planned that out very well, because the only thing he ever used his bedroom for was sleeping. There was nothing in the room except his clothes and his bed; not even a stray sketchbook.
So—fuck it. He went to bed.
Or, he started to. He’d just tied the waist of the old sweatpants he slept in when there was a knock on his door. Kurt came in, closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, his arms crossed over his chest. Blaine froze.
“I’m… I’m really not used to thinking of myself as lucky, Blaine.”
“But I am. Not in what I… what I went through, but—after.”
“I never had to turn tricks. Never started using booze or drugs to try to handle the pain or the anger. Never got locked up. And I never realized how lucky that meant I was.”
“And I thought—maybe you don’t know—there’s a lot you don’t know. You don’t know, the ways I’m… the ways I’ve been hurt—they’re not like that. I thought, maybe you think if you, if we… that it would break me.” Kurt looked at him then, his face calm. “It wouldn’t break me, Blaine.”
Kurt was still in the same clothes he’d worn to the event, only now his shirtsleeves were unbuttoned and rolled up to the elbow, and his vest hung open. His tie was yanked down and his collar was unfastened and his hair was messy, and for the first time he didn’t look like a boy at all—he looked like a man, a sexy, dizzyingly handsome man, staring at Blaine with calm equanimity.
Blaine could see (it was a curse, sometimes, the clarity with which he could see things) an unspooling chain of events—one where he got Kurt by the tie and Kurt tucked three fingers into the front of Blaine’s sweatpants before they crashed into each other, where any space between them was too much space and the two steps to get to the bed was two steps they didn’t have time for. He could see them grappling on the floor, desperate to get as much of each other as possible, desperate to get off, kissing like devouring and rutting like beasts. He saw it, saw the liquid-slide, flesh-and-sweat sex of it, and his cells were crying out for it like they were desert-parched because it had been so long, so long since he’d lost himself in the taste and feel of a beautiful man, so long since he’d let go—
One step forward, one change in the angle of light was enough to break the illusion—Kurt was sixteen again, far-away and long-ago and so far apart from him that bridging the distance would tear everything, leave it in shreds. Blaine whirled around and sank down on his bed with his head in his hands before he could do something stupid like put his fist through his bedroom door, or kiss Kurt on his open, wanting, innocent sixteen-year-old mouth. His heart was pounding. His head was pounding. “I’m sorry, Kurt—I’m so sorry. I never meant to—God. I’m so sorry.”
But when he opened his eyes, he was talking to an empty room.
He couldn’t fucking draw.
He could still see—a small slice or a composite image or sometimes an entire vista, textured and complete—but he couldn’t draw any of it. At all.
A line, graphite on paper. Just one line, but recognizable to him as the curve of the back of Kurt’s neck seen in profile, as he sat at the piano. One line.
But the line was wrong. The line was… guilty, and off, and not-right, and when he ploughed ahead anyway and insisted that his hand do its job, the result was a mess.
Stop. Try again. No. Again. No. Over and over, failure after failure, and he stashed those sketchbooks far back in his closet, because he never wanted to look at them again.
It felt like starving. Like kicking a drug. Like chasing a high, deprived and empty and half-panicked and half-devastated, something vital that he needed in order to live carved right out of him, leaving a terrifying hole behind.
Kurt seemed fine—except for how he wasn’t. There was no acrimony, no suffering glances, no undue tension—he was just… distant. Calm, and existing, and distant (going, going, almost gone). Even though he was still there—they still lived together, cooked together, and (more or less) spent time together.
But Blaine couldn’t draw any of it. And nothing was the same.
He had to ask, but he couldn’t do it in the clock-ticking hush of the house—it felt too close to the bone, too vulnerable, too easy to imagine the silence and solitude that would descend if it went the way he was afraid it might.
So he asked Kurt to go to breakfast with him, and took him out near Fisherman’s Wharf—hellishly touristy and utterly devoid of charm, but it seemed like neutral territory, somehow. He ordered coffee (although he was fairly sure he wouldn’t be able to drink it), and food (something—he didn’t pay attention to what, since he really had no urge to eat anything at all), and waited until the coffee appeared before he took the plunge.
“Kurt.” Kurt left off his half-amused, half-contemptuous survey of all the tourists thronging the street, and looked at him. “Are you going… are you planning to leave?”
Kurt blinked. Sipped his coffee. His cheeks flushed. “I’m… I’ve been considering it.”
There it was. And there was a whole world of difference between thinking it was coming and knowing it, because Blaine’s stomach dropped out from under him like he’d just pitched himself off a cliff. “I really wish you wouldn’t.” Such a calm statement, so unemotional and detached, completely inadequate to sum up the terrifying thought of Kurt, gone, God knows where. Maybe forever.
“I know.” Kurt was pale beneath the flush, his lips pressed tight together. “But… it’s really hard for me to stay.”
“I get that, Kurt, I do. I—”
“No, you don’t, Blaine—you don’t get it.” Kurt cut him off sharply. His eyes flashed. “You don’t get it—you don’t get that you’re the only person in my life who’s ever seen what’s different about me, and liked it. You don’t get what that means to me. You don’t get that it made all of… everything I’ve ever had to go through to be who I am—and that’s a lot, Blaine, a lot—all seem worthwhile.” Kurt wiped his eyes, angry now, crying, breaking Blaine in two. “You don’t get it. You just don’t get how it feels that you’re the only one who’s ever seen me like that—and you act like you’re going to burn in hell if you touch me. Like liking me, wanting me, means you’re damned. And I can’t… I just. Can’t—”
Kurt was up and gone before Blaine could stop him. It had happened so fast, everything seemed too loud and too bright, and Blaine was trying to move but his muscles had locked up—until he saw Kurt push through the door and into the street. Then it was a mad scramble, his nerves screaming at him to hurry, and he fumbled for his wallet and tossed bills on the table before he ran out the door.
The street was a sea of people, but he could only see one—one tucked-down shiny brown head walking away, moving fast. He followed. “Kurt!” He was almost running, trying to catch up—but then he saw Kurt actually collide with a girl coming out of an ice cream store, almost knocking her down—and then everything stopped.
“Kurt?” That was from the girl. She was short and had long, brown hair, and her eyes were huge and her hands were on Kurt’s arms, holding him. “Kurt—oh my God—you’re here—what are you… they wouldn’t tell us anything, they said—we couldn’t find you—”
Blaine stopped in his tracks. Kurt had spun halfway around, and Blaine could see how pale he was, white and bloodless with dark circles of shock under his eyes. “Rachel—oh, Jesus, Rachel, you can’t—you can’t tell anyone you saw me, okay? Not anyone. Nobody can know this—promise me, you have to promise me—”
The girl was crying and saying something, something about a competition and that she was sorry, but that seemed secondary to the fact that a horde of kids were piling out of the ice cream store she had come out of—and all of them seemed to know Kurt. Blaine watched Kurt shrink back, pressed against the storefront with his hands splayed out against the glass, until a man came out of the store, a guy with a chiseled face and wavy hair—and went as white as Kurt was, dropping his ice cream cone on the sidewalk.
Kurt bolted, and Blaine ran after him.
He lost sight of Kurt within a block—too many people, too many possible turns and alleys and places he could have ducked into—but he kept looking, kept running, and even when he knew it was hopeless; he kept on until there was a stitch deep in his side and spots floating in front of his eyes. He eventually circled back to the ice cream shop, but there was nobody—nobody but everybody, a throng of unrecognizable tourists undoubtedly wondering if the crazy-haired, panting, sweaty guy was about to try to rob them.
He went home, steering his car with shaking hands, hoping fervently that he’d find Kurt there when he arrived—probably upset, okay, maybe crying or scared or angry or all three—but there.
But the house was empty.
Blaine sat down at the kitchen table, and waited.
No police—you don’t go to the police about a kid on the run from… whatever. No hospitals (please don’t let Kurt be in the hospital)—Kurt and his ‘documentation problem’ meant no hospitals. There was nothing for Blaine to do except keep his cell phone charged (Kurt’s phone didn’t even go to voice mail—it just rang, endlessly, and nobody ever picked up, but he kept trying anyway) and try not to wonder too much about where Kurt might be, if he was okay, if he would ever speak to Blaine again—if he would ever be able to.
It was almost two o’clock in the morning when Blaine found himself outside, in his driveway with his car door open and the keys in his hand. A futile, absurd undertaking—but he went anyway, cruising slowly around the streets in the parts of the city where he thought Kurt might go, and the parts of the city where he thought Kurt might go if he knew someone was looking for him, someone who knew where to look.
The sun was rising by the time he got back, a gorgeous, pink flush over everything that just made the house seem darker and more empty, like the shed carapace of some giant insect, dry and frail and ready to skitter away in the smallest breeze. He didn’t want to go inside.
He went inside. Plugged his cell phone in again. Called Kurt again. And waited.
On the second night of waiting he got apocalyptically drunk, then felt apocalyptically guilty for it—what if Kurt called, needed help, needed him? He made himself throw up, then drank an entire pot of coffee—and then threw that up—at which point he really, badly needed a shower. He showered with his cellphone just outside the curtain, wrapped in a dry washcloth with the volume turned all the way up. Kurt didn’t call. Not then, and not when he brushed his teeth and combed his hair and put on jeans and a polo that weren’t spattered with fluids that made them look like they belonged on a fratboy after a pub crawl, not as the sun came up all over again and the day stretched out like torture.
He almost called Tina. He almost called Quinn. He almost, God help him, called his fucking lawyer—but he didn’t. He went on another tour of the city instead, driving aimlessly, and then purposefully, and then dejectedly back to the house, back inside the house, cell phone in the charger and Blaine on the kitchen floor, waiting.
He started losing time at that point—not sleeping, he was pretty sure he wasn’t sleeping in any normal sense of the word—just dropping giant chunks of time down an unseen maw, fumbling for his cell every time he came back to himself, just to check—no calls.
It was late. He didn’t know how it had gotten so late. And he didn’t know what to do.
He actually had his phone in his hand, staring at the screen, when it lit up—unknown caller. His thumb shook when he pressed the screen.
Blaine closed his eyes. He was so dizzy with relief that he slumped over sideways onto the floor. “Kurt—oh my God, Kurt, where are you?”
Kurt was crying. “Blaine, I’m so sorry—I tried to fix it, tried to fix things, but I couldn’t—”
“Are you okay? Are you hurt? Please don’t—”
“Blaine, listen.” Kurt sniffed. “I’m sorry, I want to… I’m fine, okay? I mean, I’m not hurt. I just… I tried to fix things, and I tried to make it safe for you and I couldn’t, and if… you have to be sure, Blaine—you have to be really, really sure, because this could get ugly, it could get so ugly, and I don’t ever want to hurt you—”
Blaine squeezed the phone so hard he heard the plastic creak. “Kurt, please—just tell me where you are. Let me come get you.”
“I can’t… no. I can’t go back to San Francisco. Not for a while. I’m sorry—”
“Then I’ll come to you—wherever you are. Anywhere. Just tell me.”
“I’m… in Cambria. At your house. I had the key and I didn’t know where else to go and I’m sorry—”
Blaine was up, on his feet, his muscles burning with exhaustion and adrenaline. “I’m on my way. Right now. Don’t leave, okay? Just… wait for me, Kurt—please. Please?”
Kurt was crying again. “I’m so sorry about all this, Blaine. I never wanted—”
“Shh.” Blaine had his keys in his hand and the car door open, and he stood there for just a moment, his eyes closed, his head back, the phone held tight. His heart was pounding like crazy. “It’s okay, Kurt—it’ll be okay. Just stay where you are. I’ll be there soon.”
He let himself into the house at half-past three in the morning. It was dark, just a soft glow coming from the living room—the small lamp on the left side of the couch. Kurt was on the floor, curled up on his side, asleep. He was still wearing the same clothes Blaine had last seen him in, but now his feet were bare and his jeans rolled up, his vest and tie gone, his white shirt rumpled and untucked—like a boy who’d fallen asleep trying on his big brother’s clothes. Blaine went to his knees silently, his eyes stinging as he reached out one hand, his breath catching in his throat as Kurt’s eyes fluttered.
“Blaine—” Kurt got him around the neck and Kurt was in his arms and right there—with him, and safe, and right there—“Blaine, you’re here, oh my God, you’re here…” He felt Kurt shake, crying again, and he hung on, rocking just a little, hanging on while Kurt’s hands touched his shoulders, his head, his face, as if checking to make sure he was real—and it was everything, it was all he needed; Blaine shut his eyes and breathed deep and held Kurt close, and it was everything.
“Please—” it was just a whisper, shaky and faint, a running susurration of sound. “Please, Blaine, please—please don’t—please don’t hate yourself—not when I love you so much—”
Kurt’s mouth was so, so soft, tender and tasting like tears. It was a shock, a giant, walloping shock, like cresting a wave in the deep ocean, kissing Kurt’s mouth, silky tongue and innocence and openness and it rocked him, rocked him to the core of his being. He teased Kurt’s tongue with his own, rubbed their open lips together, then dove back in and breathed deep, breathing Kurt in, drowning sweetly.
Kurt moaned just a little, shuddering, surging against him, and then everything in Blaine’s head went white—there were noises and there was need, and some kind of popping, pinging sound—the buttons on Kurt’s shirt, flying everywhere when Blaine tore it open, the creak of straining denim under his hands and a deep purr of ripping fabric and then he had it, he had Kurt’s hot, hard cock in his hand, so soft-skinned it felt criminal to touch it. Everything slowed down then, and he came back to himself, came back to Kurt, eye to eye with him while his hand moved—so gently, so slowly—below.
Kurt’s lips were glossy-wet and open, gasping, his cheeks flushed deep red. Blaine watched, greedy for all of it, stunned by all of it, losing himself in every shiver, every flutter of Kurt’s eyelids.
“That… feels—your hand—”
“You love me?”
“…so much.” A dam breaking, the hot, sweet rush of everything he hadn’t said. “You’re so beautiful, and I love you so much, and I want you—I always want you, Kurt, all the time, want to touch you and kiss you and… oh fuck yes—” He watched Kurt come, softly moaning with his brows drawn down, shaky hands on his shoulders and a hard push into his fist and then spilling, warm and wet, his own eyes were wet, Kurt’s lashes were wet and matted and Blaine was groaning himself because he soaked it up, rode it out like it was his own, delicate tremors of ecstasy running through him like fine threads of fire.
They were kissing again. He didn’t remember when they started, but it was different now—awed and soft and hushed, luxurious and sated and sugar-sweet. Infinitely and instantaneously addictive—Kurt’s gentle, curious tongue, the soft hands cupping Blaine’s face, holding him close. Blaine felt drugged, heavy and lax, and swayed a little when he pulled back. Even his bones felt exhausted. “Come to bed,” he said huskily. “My bed. With me.”
“Okay, yes—” Kurt blinked at him, sleepy-eyed and so open, so willing, that Blaine gave in to the sudden, ridiculous impulse of the moment and scooped him up, arms under Kurt’s shoulders and knees and then up on his feet, heading towards the stairs. Kurt giggled faintly, then snaked both arms around his neck and nestled close, leaning his head on Blaine’s shoulder. “Don’t let go.”
“I’m never letting you go,” Blaine said quietly.
Another one of those moments, a memory embedded so deep in him it would never be anything less than perfectly distinct: Kurt in his arms, in his bed for the first time. Simple, and simply miraculous. Kurt half-draped across him, sleek brown head tucked down, babysoft cheek against his chest, one long leg tangled between his. Kurt was asleep by the time Blaine got the blankets settled over them, sighing softly, and even though he was so tired himself that keeping his eyes open felt like a kind of torture, he had to watch—just for a little while, just long enough to take it in, to memorize everything, to bring it home that Kurt was here, and safe, and his. Then he kissed the top of Kurt’s head, and let himself fall.
He sank, and surfaced, and sank all over again: snuggling with Kurt, warm animal comfort as the hours ticked by, as the room filled with light. The first thing that really woke him was Kurt sliding away, gently extricating himself. “Don’t go.”
“I have to pee.” Kurt’s voice was hoarse, whisper-quiet. “I’ll be right back.”
“That was too long,” he murmured when Kurt returned, cool-skinned, shivering boy eagerly burying himself under the covers.
“Cold out there,” Kurt breathed, and Blaine wrapped him up, held him until the shivering stopped. “God, you’re so warm.”
And then he sank again.
The light suggested late-afternoon when he opened his eyes, and a glance at his bedside clock confirmed it. Kurt had moved off his chest and onto the pillow right next to him, but their arms and fingers and legs were still laced together, a sweet, constricting tangle, too-warm now. Kurt’s eyes were open, just barely open, heavy-lidded but so bright, the thick lashes making Blaine want to draw them all over again.
Blaine swallowed. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Kurt blinked, slowly. “Are you okay?”
“I’m… I need to pee.” He really, really did. He walked away feeling absurdly self-conscious about wearing nothing but boxer-briefs, a feeling which really wasn’t assuaged by Kurt’s wide-eyed, up-and-down look when he came back from the bathroom.
“Oh my God,” Kurt said faintly. He was blushing, and Blaine was mildly scandalized to feel his own face heating up when he ducked back under the sheet, tossing the duvet onto the floor. Kurt’s eyes were solemn, huge. “Blaine. Please tell me you’re okay.”
“Kurt—I wouldn’t be mostly naked and in bed with you, if I wasn’t.” Kurt started reaching for him, but Blaine stopped his hand, laced their fingers together. “But I need… we need to talk.”
“Blaine.” Kurt pulled his hand back, tugging the sheet up under his chin. “I’m not… I can’t, I’m not ready to—”
“Okay—I know… I know. But… I don’t want you to disappear on me again. That was… it was terrible, Kurt, and I don’t—I need to know you won’t run. Not on your own.”
Kurt reached out again, touching his fingers gently. “I’m sorry, Blaine—I’m so sorry you were worried about me.”
“Worried isn’t the word for it, Kurt. I was… I can’t lose you.” His voice thickened, and he cleared his throat. “I just can’t.”
Kurt closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. “I won’t disappear, Blaine. And… if I have to run, I’ll let you know where I’m going and—”
“If you have to run—I’m running with you.” He took Kurt’s hand. “Promise me.”
“I… okay. I promise,” Kurt murmured, squeezing Blaine’s fingers, his eyes too bright. “Could you maybe kiss me now?”
The sunlight coming in through the windows illuminated the bed, dust motes in the air drifting as if time itself had slowed. Kisses were distinct, patient, dropping deliberately like each was a petal pulled from a flower. Kurt’s mouth was irresistible, his eyes hazy, his white throat working as he swallowed. His body shifted, heels skidding a little on the sheets as if he were trying to keep still. “Blaine.”
Blaine almost moaned aloud when he pulled the sheet up, because Kurt was always, always covered, a continual tease, and the first sight of his sweetly naked body was overwhelming—boyish and beautiful and elegant and powerful, and Blaine wanted to draw everything and touch everything and also taste everything all at the same time and his hands were shaking, just a little.
Kurt blushed. It went all the way down. “Blaine—you too, okay? I want—”
Blaine was already breathing heavily when he tossed the sheet away, already hard when he skimmed out of his briefs. Kurt was hard, gorgeous and big and curved up over his lovely belly almost to his navel, thick dark pubic hair but none on his balls, rosy and tight-drawn close to his body and oh Christ, Blaine had to swallow because his mouth was watering.
Naked kisses, soft skin and sunlight everywhere, already sweating—God, he’s sixteen and a virgin, don’t maul him—but Kurt pulled him close and pushed up against him and gasped into the curve of his neck, wrapping strong thighs around his hips, blunt-bitten nails digging into his back, and that was pretty much the end of Blaine’s self-control. He worked them together in tight, smooth arcs, kissing Kurt hard and deep while Kurt bucked under him.
“Oh fuck,” Kurt moaned, flushed red and gorgeous, tight pink nipples and the muscles in his stomach quivering. “Oh my God, Blaine, that’s… don’t stop, okay?”
Blaine groaned. His balls were heavy, aching, his cock twitching, and Kurt was smooth and hot and delicious, slick now with sweat and moving with him, half-lidded eyes drinking Blaine in avidly as he reared up. More pressure and more friction, and Blaine couldn’t, couldn’t stop watching Kurt give in to it, surrendering bit by bit.
He would have liked to stretch it out—but it had been too long, and too much, and it felt too good. Blaine worked his hips until he found what made Kurt moan and gasp and shake the most, then closed his eyes and dropped his head back and stayed right there, almost a full-body slide grinding them together, wickedly intense with their cocks pressed against each other.
“Blaine—ohh… fuck—” He dropped down and covered Kurt’s mouth with his own and kissed him while he came, shaking so hard it felt like his bones were rattling, groaning and gasping through some kind of massive, silent explosion in the middle of his head when he shot all over Kurt’s stomach and chest, all the strength running out of his muscles like water.
He didn’t remember rolling over, but when he could see again he was on his back with Kurt lying on top of him, kissing him and humming a little and moving slowly, gently, like he was floating. Blaine felt like he was floating himself—untethered from everything, like if Kurt wasn’t on top of him he might just drift gently up to the ceiling. He was appalled to find himself giggling quietly.
“Apparently I think I’m a balloon.” He snickered helplessly. His arms and legs didn’t work, and that was hilarious.
Kurt came vaguely into focus above him, sweaty and rosy and sated and gorgeous and concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Oh yeah I’m awesome,” Blaine said stridently, then completely lost it, laughing so hard his stomach ached and his eyes teared up.
“Oh my God I love you, you dork,” Kurt murmured, then collapsed onto Blaine’s chest and nestled there, smiling faintly.
There are sketchbooks everywhere around the room, along with charcoal sticks and sanguigna and graphite sticks and pastels and the sheets are such a mess…
“How… how far can I… I don’t want to, um, hurt you—”
Blaine looked up through his lashes. “Kurt.” Kurt’s erection twitched hard in his hand, as if Blaine had addressed it directly. “You don’t have to worry about—look, you can just… fuck my mouth, okay?”
Kurt made a soft, choked-off noise, followed by a shocked-sounding groan when Blaine took him in. The fists in his hair seemed half-panicked at first, as if trying to hold him still, then they went lax. Then fingers wound into his curls, almost a caress, sweetly unconscious, tugging lightly in time with the moans from above. The fists came back slowly, little by little, hesitant at first, then a firmer grip, then tight and fierce when Kurt’s hips started to buck.
“Oh my God, Blaine—your mouth is… it’s like wet fire… suck me, make me—oh God—”
Blaine swallowed, listening with his heart cracking open to Kurt’s quiet, helpless cries, then reached down and brought himself off with two fast strokes, groaning with his mouth still full.
Kurt looked… debauched, splayed across the rumpled sea of the bed like a shipwreck survivor cast up on a beach. His chest was heaving. “Why did you—I want to—why—”
“Mmm,” Blaine said, scrubbing his hands off on the sheets and rolling over, stretching, reaching for a sketchbook. “Hold it right there, Kurt.”
Kurt put one hand over his eyes and laughed weakly. “Fucking crazy artist.”
A white bowl, filled with cherries, nestled into the white duvet, brilliant in the early afternoon sunlight. Kurt is on his stomach, fresh from the shower with his wet hair combed straight back and held in place with a blue bandana knotted on top of his head, waiting for his face to dry so he can add the next layer of moisturizer. He’s reading the Vogue that Blaine got him when he went to the market that morning, and eating the cherries that looked too good to resist, his knees bent and his ankles crossed and his toes pointed at the ceiling, absorbed and translucent in the sunlight, not paying the least bit of attention to Blaine or the constant skritch-scratch-skritch of pencil.
“Just… go easy, Kurt—remember; I’ve had… a lot more practice than—oh fucking hell.”
It would have been a singularly unlucky instance of timing, if he had followed up his little declaration of sexual maturity and experience by coming all over Kurt’s face—but God Kurt’s mouth was so pink and pretty and hot, his face so serious and intent, opening and taking Blaine in—soft, soft tongue and Blaine couldn’t help it—he almost lost it, right then and there.
He couldn’t stop groaning, couldn’t stop staring down at Kurt—lowered lashes, stretched lips and cheeks—and yes, he’d had his share of blowjobs, but he’d never had one that made him feel like he was melting from the inside out, one that made him shake ten seconds into it, one that made him grab the sheets and twist because the sweet, deep pleasure of it was undoing him on some vital level.
He let go of the sheets and took Kurt’s face gently in his hands, just touching, tracing, cupping the back of his head so lightly. Silky hair. Satiny mouth, killing him with softness, with newness, with tender and irresistible suction, and he didn’t even know he was going to come until he suddenly was, growling out a one-second warning and then coming on the next wet-slick-perfect slide over Kurt’s tongue, groaning and undone.
“You don’t even know, do you?” Kurt asked him, voice lower than usual, ragged, his hands shaky as he pushed Blaine down into the pillows after kissing him with fierce intensity. “You have no idea how fucking sexy you are.” Kurt straddled Blaine’s shoulders, his cock hard and red and dripping, aimed right at his mouth. “You’re so sexy when you come, Blaine…”
Blaine opened his mouth, still panting, groaning a little until Kurt cut him off in the very best way.
The Cambria house has no loft, so the largest spare bedroom serves as his studio when he’s here. It’s not as well-equipped as the studio in the city, but he’s added to it significantly on this trip, because he wants everything, everything he might need.
Kurt on the canvas is rose-pale in the sunlight, glowing out of the white rumpled bedding. The blue bandana and the red cherries are the brightest, most intense colors in the whole piece, and the pose—indolent and absorbed and utterly unselfconscious of nudity, with the crossed ankles and gorgeous bare bottom and the pointed, baby-pink toes on Kurt’s lovely, long feet that Blaine couldn’t paint without getting the most ridiculous, aching boner, Kurt’s lips to a lush, fleshy cherry with the stem in his fingers—it’s almost cheesecake, a framing of his masculinity that is completely unexpected, and oh God when it’s done Blaine almost jerks off right then and there.
“What’s it called?”
Kurt laughs delightedly, but only until Blaine catches him around the waist and pulls him down onto the floor. “Hey—don’t get paint in my hair, Blaine—oh. I… oh. Mmm.”
“No, Quinn, really—I’m fine. I just… needed some time away. To think.” Blaine winced a little, hoping that sounded reasonable. Lower down on the bed, Kurt reached out and lazily grabbed Blaine by the thing he’d been thinking with, snorting softly when Blaine shook his head and squirmed away. “Yeah, I’m working. No, you can’t see it yet. It’s not… ready. Of course—you’ll be the first. I promise.”
He was limp with conflicted guilt in the aftermath, until Kurt slid on top of him, kissing him softly. About ten minutes later he had Kurt stretched out on the bed, his eyes huge and a rosy sex-flush coloring his skin from the roots of his hair down to the red, blushing tip of his lubed, sheathed cock. Blaine worked himself down onto it slowly, carefully—Kurt was big, and it had been a while, but the sight of Kurt’s awed, stunned face, sinking into him—into anyone—for the first time, was so good, so sweet, so perfect, it was impossible to resist.
“Blaine.” Kurt bit his lip. “It’s… hot, you’re so hot, inside, and… oh, hey, I think I might be freaking out a little—”
“Do you want to stop?” He hoped Kurt didn’t want to stop.
“No—please, don’t stop; just… stay with me, okay?”
He took Kurt’s hands and guided them to his hips, bending down slowly, so slowly, lust pooling heavy in the pit of his stomach, throbbing in his cock, folding down for soft, tender kisses, covering Kurt’s gasping mouth until he moaned quietly, fingers curling and sinking into Blaine’s flexing muscles.
“Oh fuck—can I, Blaine, please—”
“Yeah… yes—anything, just—yes—”
Kurt had genius hips and a gorgeous cock and strong, silky arms that were perfect to hold on to, and really, Blaine meant to keep kissing him, keep reassuring him, but his own spine was rolling and he was moaning and his nerves were firing crazily, soaked with sweat and saturated with pleasure. He rose up, riding, and it was so deep and so good and he was vibrating from his ass to his nipples to his toes, his untouched cock twitching rhythmically.
“How—Blaine, how—” glazed, dazed look, hot and overwhelmed and aroused, pink tongue licking rosy lips. “How do I make you come?”
“Ngrh,” Blaine said helpfully, and came hard, white streaks up Kurt’s belly and chest while he groaned and stroked himself through the last of it, shivering. Kurt gasped, closed his eyes, gasped again, and then cried out, high and soft, his hands fiercely tight on Blaine’s hips, pulling him down and coming in him, twitching and pushing deep until he slid his hands up to Blaine’s face and tugged him down, kissing and kissing and kissing him.
It’s the first full-frontal nude he’s done of Kurt, and it’s… distracting. There’s no sketch for this, for the frank and open sexuality, nearly a challenge to the eyes that take it in. No reference but the indelible marks left on his own heart and senses and memory of what it feels like in that moment when everything drops away except ecstasy, the tenderness and rut of it, the flush and flesh of desire. Soft, white skin, gripped and held—he paints it like he touches it, with awe and lust and gratitude.
Kurt is quiet for a long time. His cheeks turn pink, and his eyelids droop a little. “That’s not an eagle.”
“It’s a dragon.”
“And… they’re fucking.”
“That’s… open to interpretation.”
A wry flash of blue, right at him. “No it isn’t.”
“Okay, yeah, no, it kind of isn’t.”
Kurt takes his hand, squeezes a little. “When are you gonna fuck me, Blaine?”
Blaine’s knees, Blaine’s heart, both undergo a woozy feeling of weakness. “Just give me a little time, Kurt, okay?”
Lube, lube, lube—way too much, probably, but he was nervous and Kurt kept gasping, face-down in the sheets with his legs spread and his hands clawing the sheets, and Blaine’s own hands weren’t exactly steady. He tucked Kurt’s balls up, very gently, then put his aching cock in the crease between Kurt’s thighs, and guided his legs closed. “Like… that, yes, perfect—”
Kurt whined softly. “I still don’t know why this is supposed to be such a—oh my God why does that feel so good?”
Blaine got one hand under Kurt and stroked him, slowly, in counterpoint to his thrusts between Kurt’s legs, the side of his fist bumping the head of his own cock on the downstroke. Kurt’s thighs were tight around him, muscular and satiny-smooth and so wet, and Blaine couldn’t stop his eyes from rolling back in his head, everything in him funneling down to pure need. He bit his lip and kept it slow, as torturously slow as he could stand it because if he didn’t, it would all be over.
“Not yet.” God, that was barely intelligible.
“I know,” it was just a husk of his usual voice, a throaty whisper. “Just… hang on for me, okay?”
Kurt whimpered, shivering hard, squeezing his thighs tight-closed and humping into Blaine’s fist. Blaine’s eyes fluttered shut and he kept going, kept going, slow and steady and halfway insane but so toe-curlingly good, and he was moaning so loudly his head was vibrating but he didn’t care in the least—not with Kurt fishtailing under him, grinding back and then forward into his hand, sweat-wet, slick-wet; tight, clenched thighs and the wet peachskin slide of Kurt’s balls against the tip of his cock an absolutely delirious pleasure. It pulled him, dragged him out of his controlled rhythm and then there was only Kurt’s soft, needy cries and half-articulated begging, only the ride as his body took over and drove him harder, faster, using his knees to press Kurt’s legs even tighter together while he fucked between them.
Kurt came with a desperate, rough cry, coming hot and wet into Blaine’s hand—everything hot and wet, everything so good he had to let go, coming between Kurt’s silky thighs with a tortured, ecstatic groan.
It’s raining. As much as he loves the translucent glow of Kurt in the sunshine, Kurt in the rain is his favorite—the intimacy with the million secrets held by Kurt’s amazing face and lovely body are closer, more accessible, a private revelation just for him. He gorges his vision, looks and looks until his heart and head are full to bursting, still greedy for more. Kurt is relaxed and open, peaceful and composed—just a miracle of a person, calmly existing.
Artist and Model I is a frippery, really—his own leg makes it into the sketch, when Kurt decides that the state of Blaine’s toenails is an offence against decency, and gives him a pedicure. They both giggle through it, and Kurt paints Blaine’s refurbished toenails a lovely seashell pink, and Blaine thinks it looks awesome.
Artist and Model II is a chance occurrence—the closet door left open enough that the mirror hung there reflects the bed, showing Blaine a glimpse when he rolls Kurt over underneath him. It’s actually surprisingly difficult, drawing himself on top of Kurt, and he has to work hard to get it—in the end he settles for a waist-up sketch, Kurt’s hands laced behind Blaine’s neck, his own hand pushing the hair back from Kurt’s forehead, kissing with their eyes closed.
“So you do know how handsome you are,” Kurt says solemnly. Blaine cracks up.
It was raining, raining hard, and everything in the entire world that wasn’t the two of them seemed so very far away.
He sucked Kurt off slowly, gently, working the glans of Kurt’s wide cock into and out of his throat, over his tongue, swallowing slowly again and again until Kurt arched and pulled his hair and came, gasping.
Kurt facedown into the sheets, lax and boneless, a precious weight. He spread Kurt’s thighs slowly, gently, then licked his way down Kurt’s spine and further down, secret pink and vulnerable and tight, holding Kurt open and licking softly, teasing and tender, his heart hammering in his chest from the intimacy of that slick, sweet muscle around his tongue. Kurt moaned so softly, like a dove, moaned and gasped and spread his thighs wider, flushed all the way down to the small of his back, throwing off heat.
Blaine licked until Kurt pushed back on his tongue, until Kurt was hard again and rutting into the sheets, until his whole body rolled like a wave and came, high, soft, helpless noises and shaking, shaking—still moving, after, slowly, his hips slow-rolling like he was still coming, and Blaine licked until Kurt was limp and sweating, panting and utterly surrendered.
He turned Kurt over again—he looked almost asleep, heavy-eyed and sated with his wet, spent cock curled gently against his stomach. Condom, lube, and then he pushed Kurt’s knees up to his chest and went slowly, as slowly as he possibly could, moving deeper only when Kurt had stretched to take him. It took a long, long time before they were there, together, face to face, gazes locked—but Kurt’s eyes were open, and clear, and full of amazement.
“Does it feel good, inside me?” Only a whisper, a secret question just for the two of them.
Blaine nodded. He couldn’t speak. He could barely breathe.
“It’s… it’s okay, Blaine—I’m good. You feel good, you can—oh—”
Blaine just rocked, slowly, for a long time, feeling his way forward bit by bit—what made Kurt gasp, or shiver, or moan, what made the cock in his hand twitch and jerk and start to fill again. He pursued, seduced, and lost himself in the seduction—his senses were brimming-full and Kurt was everywhere, all around him, and they were sliding together, moving together, slow and endless.
There were kisses, patient and then indulgent and then needful, and he didn’t even notice the incremental change but all at once they were there, Kurt pushing into his hand and twisting into his thrusts with his head shoved far back into the pillows, hands fiercely tight on his shoulders.
“Fuck me, Blaine—right, right there oh God I’m gonna come—please—”
He felt Kurt come, throbbing in his hand and around his cock, and he let go with a deep, wrenching sob, burying his face in the sweat-slick curve of Kurt’s neck and crying out hoarsely, coming so hard his whole body cramped up, exquisite pain and pleasure and wave after wave that washed everything else away.
They stayed close, afterwards, nestled together while the rain came down outside. Blaine stroked his thumb softly over Kurt’s left eyebrow, and then again. He swallowed, and Kurt blinked at him sleepily.
“Blaine. What is it?”
“I love you.” His voice was rough.
“I know. I love you too.”
“I have to go back to San Francisco.”
“I won’t go without you.”
“Are you ready?”
Three nights later, the nightmares started up again. Blaine was right there, Kurt in his arms, in his bed, and it was a matter of moments to wake him, hold him—but Kurt was sweaty and pale with dark circles of shock under his eyes, his hands shaking hard when Blaine brought him tea.
“I shouldn’t have brought you back here.”
“I wasn’t thinking. We can leave, in the morning. Go anywhere—back to Cambria, or, or anywhere—anywhere you want to go—”
“Blaine, stop. It’s not… it’s not because I’m here.”
That brought Blaine up short. “It’s not?”
“No.” Kurt looked at him, and Blaine’s heart cramped with terrible pain—he looked bruised, abused, like he’d been physically beaten. “I’m sorry, I know it’s… I know you want it to be something you can fix, but… it’s not.”
Blaine sat down on the bed, his stomach heavy and sick. “What… what can I do for you?”
Kurt smiled, a tired, pained smile. “Just… give me time. And keep loving me.”
Blaine sighed. The second thing he couldn’t help, and the first one felt almost impossible. “Okay.”
It wasn’t just screaming. The next night he woke up to find Kurt gone—the light in the second-floor bathroom was on, and behind the closed door he could hear gagging, retching. “Are you sick?”
“No.” Faint, but calm. Fatalistic. “Nightmare. Side-effect. Sometimes this happens. Go back to bed, Blaine.”
He made tea instead, and left the mug on the floor outside the bathroom. Then he went back to his room, and sat with his back against the headboard, lost in a grey, helpless haze until Kurt came back, chilly and pale, smelling like toothpaste and tea. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” Kurt curled up in his arms, shivering faintly. “Just… want to sleep. With you.”
Kurt was asleep in what seemed to be a matter of moments, his face angelically smooth, only faint shadows under his eyes remaining. Blaine left the light on for the rest of the night, and held him, and kept watch.
The next day, he called Tina.
“I just… I don’t know what happened to him, and he won’t talk about it, and the nightmares—it’s every night, now, pretty much, and I just feel so goddamn helpless…”
Tina looked up from where she was arranging the giant bouquet of flowers he’d brought her. “You can’t make him talk if he’s not ready, Blaine. You’d only make it worse. If you’ve offered to listen, you’ve already done all you can do, as far as his history is concerned.”
“I know.” He did. That was why he hadn’t pushed. “But watching him go through… whatever he’s going through… and not being able to do anything about it is… it’s terrible.”
She looked at him frankly, twisting a peony stem in her fingers. “You know, Blaine, normally your taste in men is second only to Quinn’s for sheer awfulness—”
“I’m just saying—I’ve never seen you like this.” She fitted the peony into the vase. “And I know it’s hard for you, but… being in love comes with hard parts. Always. And I was starting to think that you might never get to know that—about the hard parts, or about the good ones. But you’re the only one who can decide whether or not it’s worth it.”
Blaine’s throat constricted, and he swallowed. “It’s worth it.”
“Okay, then. Good.”
She bent her head down to the peony and breathed in. He wanted to paint her, just like that—antique copper streaks in her blue-black hair, the old-fashioned flowers, elegance and intelligence and kindness in such abundance. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”
She smiled a little, shaking her head. “You remember that time I completely flipped out because I’d been with Mike since high school?”
Blaine rubbed his face. “Oh—you mean the Trial Separation From Hell idea you came up with? The one where you crashed on my couch for a month—”
“I didn’t move off your couch for a month—”
“Not even to bathe. It was pretty intense.”
“Well, I was a mess. And you were amazing.”
“I did think about coming at you with a hose…”
“Anyway, I’ve owed you one, since then. Now I’m going to open up the lovely bottle of I’m-guilty-because-I’ve-been-neglecting-you wine you brought, and we can catch up. Okay?”
The next day he took Quinn out, and remained staunchly by her side for an entire day of marathon shopping, followed by a trip to her favorite restaurant—one that actually required him to wear a jacket and tie.
“Okay, Blaine,” she said over her aperitif, “You can consider me officially softened up. Is this just an apology for being the world’s worst friend lately, or are you hiding something?”
His dismay must have shown on his face, because she put her glass down and leaned towards him over the table. “Oh my God, you are—”
He winced. “After lunch, okay?”
“I…” She looked away, blinking. When she looked back at him, her eyes were wide and frightened. “Blaine—you’re not dying are you?”
“You went with me to shop for shoes, Blaine. Shoes. And you didn’t complain once. Are you dying?”
“No!” He took a breath. “No, I’m not dying. But you might kill me.”
He bought her a coffee afterwards, sat her down on a bench in Union Square, and told her—he was tired of talking around it, tired of lying to her, and she deserved the truth from him. Quinn pitched a fit, then lectured him for half an hour, issued several dire warnings, cried, and then demanded to see the paintings.
Letting her look at them was terrifying, an exercise in vulnerability and self-torture, and finally he just stood by the railing and faced the other way, waiting for her to be through. It took a long, long time. In the end, he turned around only because he heard her crying again.
“Shut up, Blaine! I’m mad at you.” She dug in her bag for tissues and blew her nose. “You weren’t kidding, you’re actually—you’re actually in love.” She shook her head. “You’re in love and I’m jealous as hell and I’m happy for you but still really mad and then there’s these—” waving a hand around the room, “…these, and they’re the best work you’ve ever done and I can’t show them to anyone without ruining your career and I’m just… really mad.”
He walked towards her and wrapped her up. She punched him a little and then gave in, letting him hold her, resting her head on his chest. “I’m sorry, Quinn.”
“No you’re not.”
“I’m sorry you’re upset.”
“That’s just because—” she paused to blow her nose again. “—you know I’m going to make you pay, sooner or later.”
“Definitely sooner. Jerk.”
“Blaine. Are you sketching my ass?”
“The ass you just fucked for half an hour?”
“Uh… it’s not… just your ass I’m doing. I mean. I’m doing parts of your thighs, too—”
He wasn’t quite sure what that noise was that Kurt was making. It turned out to be snickering. “Should I stop?”
A wink of blue when Kurt craned over his shoulder to give him a look, and then his thighs slid a little further apart. “God, no. Pervert.”
He called the painting Rosebud. Kurt laughed so hard he folded down crosslegged onto the floor, hanging onto Blaine’s knee and wheezing.
Two days later, Kurt came home from one of his trips to the library (or, as he called it, ‘continuing education’), and went to his room without saying anything. He was lying on his bed, fully dressed but with his boots off, his eyes closed.
“Yes.” He didn’t move.
“I… had a bad day.” His voice was husked and hollow, and Blaine went to him without even thinking about it, climbing into bed with him and pulling him close.
“What’s the matter?”
Kurt curled into him, one hand resting softly against his chest. “I just… feel like I’m losing.”
Kurt’s thumb traced an arc, just over his heart. “Everything.”
Blaine touched the shell of his ear, the invisible fuzz there. “Well, you have me.”
Kurt’s hand clenched, bunching his shirt. “Blaine. This could… all be gone tomorrow. I could be gone tomorrow.”
“No.” His arms locked up on their own. “That… no.” He bit his lip, fighting against the need to ask. And losing. “Kurt. Please. Can you tell me what’s going on?”
Kurt just shook his head faintly, his eyes closed. “I’m sorry.”
Anger and frustration and sadness and—none of that was anything he ever wanted to take out on Kurt, so he kissed him instead, on his neck and his smooth cheek and then on his soft, pretty mouth, stripping him out of his clothes bit by bit until he was naked and hard and his face had mostly lost that pained, worried look. He kept it simple, kept it slow, shed his own clothes and then rocked them together, letting Kurt hide in the curve of his neck. He followed each hitch of breath or soft moan with endless, patient touches and kisses until Kurt pressed up against him and came, slow and sweet and irresistible, and he went over the edge himself with his heart full and his head clamoring at him to do something, do something—before it was too late.
They slept in Kurt’s bed that night. When the morning finally arrived and Kurt started to stir, Blaine kissed him on the forehead and slipped away, answering Kurt’s muzzy, garbled interrogative with the whispered answer that he had errands to do.
He showered, dressed, and left the house before Kurt was up, and waited until he was in the car before he called his lawyer.
Sebastian blinked, leaned back in his chair, and regarded Blaine with cool disapproval. “It’s simple, Blaine. Give him some money, and a plane ticket to anywhere he wants to go. May I suggest Thailand? He’d probably make a killing.”
“I’m not trying to get rid of him, Sebastian—”
“That’s because you have all the self-preservation instincts of a lemming with a martyr complex.”
“I’m trying to… I need to help him.”
The look Sebastian gave him was knife-sharp, a muscle jumping in his cheek. “As your attorney, I earnestly advise you to yank your head out of your nicely-cushioned ass, and get rid of him before the lure of a Diane Sawyer interview and a tell-all quickie paperback takes hold.”
“He’s not like that. Not at all.”
“You don’t even know him!” Sebastian leaned forward. “You said it yourself—you don’t know anything about him—”
“I know he’s not like that.”
Sebastian’s lips were pressed together in a hard line, and he turned his head away, staring at the wall as if he were wondering if he’d get anywhere yelling in that direction.
Blaine thought about saying something more, then thought better of it. Sebastian was mercenary and ruthless and often a total callous prick, but Blaine would never deny that he was a tenacious, resourceful, smart callous prick, and a fantastic lawyer. The first day (the first hour) they met they’d had a massive fight about whether or not Blaine should give up creative control in order to maximize his percentage of the net, after which they had charged, athletic, spectacularly superficial sex, after which Blaine had half-guiltily suggested that they keep things on a professional level.
“Whatever you say, Rembrandt,” Sebastian had drawled lazily, shrugging, shooting a tied-off condom in the general direction of Blaine’s trashcan. “We need to talk merchandising—those fuckers want to yank you off the tit of the biggest cash cow in the whole barn, and I’m going to hand them their dicks instead.” Blaine had been simultaneously horrified and amused.
Now Sebastian turned back to him, the pampered, well-groomed, aggressive force of him completely collected, focused like a laser. Blaine had seen him do the same thing during negotiations—Sebastian in take-no-prisoners mode. “Blaine. Listen to me.”
Sebastian leaned back in his chair and tilted his head. “You really love pretending you’re just this charming, eccentric artist who lives in a creepy house with enough creepy toys to qualify for an episode of hoarders, but you have been responsible for one of the top-selling books each year for the past seven years, and one of the top-grossing movies for the last four—you are an industry, Blaine, and so far you’ve been pretty fucking lucky that nobody seems to care much that you’re gayer than Maurice Sendak and politically to the left of Rachel Maddow. But if they find out you’re fucking a sixteen-year-old boy, that’s it—they’ll burn your books, ban your movies—and probably lock you up for several years.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know, Sebastian.”
“I don’t give a shit what you know—I care about getting you to think. Because I care about your career, even if you don’t.”
A corner of Blaine’s mouth twitched. “I’m sorry, I must have missed the memo where you told me you were working for Disney instead of me.”
“I do work for you, you idiot—I represent your best interests. And this is not in your best interests, Blaine.”
Blaine shook his head, and stood up. “Look, if you won’t do this, I’ll go find someone else who will—”
“Oh no—no-no-no, I’m not letting you expose yourself more than you already have. Sit down, Blaine.”
Blaine sat down.
Sebastian sighed, and rubbed both hands over his face. “Are you sure you won’t listen to reason?”
Blaine shrugged. “I have to help him. I have to try.”
“Okay.” Sebastian opened his desk drawer and retrieved a pill bottle, shaking some into his hand and dry-swallowing them. Aspirin, or possibly Quaaludes—with Sebastian, you never knew. “You want me to find out about him. About what happened to him—why he’s running, who he’s running from. And you want me to fix it.”
“Yes. If that… if it’s possible.”
“And you don’t want me to talk to him.”
Blaine shook his head. “He can’t know. He can’t know anything about it.”
Sebastian picked up a horribly-expensive-looking pen from his desk, twirling it through his fingers. “And the ‘fixing it’ part? How exactly do you propose—”
“When you get that far, we can talk about it—there’s a reason I came to you, you know.”
“And here I thought you were just a gift from the ulcer-fairy.” Sebastian tossed the pen down, leaned back, and laced his fingers behind his head. “No notes on this, I think—just tell me what you know.”
Blaine took a deep breath, and started talking.
He felt guilty as soon as he left Sebastian’s office. He was still convinced he’d done the right thing, but nevertheless his skin felt too tight and it was hard to breathe and his chest felt cramped and awful, and he couldn’t go home.
So he went to Saks instead, and indulged himself by looking for beautiful things for Kurt—sweaters and vests and cardigans and fitted shirts and skinny jeans and bondage shorts; silks and cashmere and fine, thin wools; skin care and hair care and lotions that smelled like an herb garden to his untutored nose. Suspenders. Ties. Buckles and belts. Hats, hats, hats. Brooches and watch chains and wallet chains. A new leather satchel. Short boots and tall boots and boots with tassels and zippers and rivets. Pretty things. Wild things. Luxurious and lovely things, with Kurt floating, omnipresent and vivid down to the smallest detail, in all of them.
Afterwards, a revelation: he finally understood shopping therapy. Quinn would be so pleased.
He carried the boxes (and wow, okay, there were kind of a lot of them, maybe he’d gone a tad overboard) up to Kurt’s room in three trips, and left everything stacked on the desk. Then he went to the kitchen, made coffee, and started the prepwork for roast lamb with rosemary demi-glace, new potatoes and blanched sugar snap peas. It was the most complicated thing he knew how to make—so naturally, it was also Kurt’s favorite.
“Oh my god you’re making that,” was Kurt’s opening salvo when he breezed in, rosy-cheeked and achingly innocent in his prep school camouflage. “Okay, just—I need to change, and then I’ll be right down to help. Do not touch the cornstarch, Blaine—I know the demi-glace gives you fits, but you don’t have to resort to brutality. I’ll be right back.”
He gave Kurt a few minutes, then went upstairs. Kurt had opened only one of the boxes—a soft blue-grey Gucci angora sweater, fuzzy and fine and made to fit snugly, the material draping softly over Kurt’s outstretched hands. It was very pretty. On Kurt, Blaine thought, it would be heartstopping.
Kurt looked at him, at the towering pile of boxes, at the sweater in his hands, and back to him again. “Why?”
Blaine leaned against the doorjamb. “You… won’t let me help you,” he said—and that much was true. “So I did the only thing I could think of.” True as well. He left it at that.
Kurt laid the sweater back into the box like he was tucking a baby in for the night, then came to Blaine, winding both arms around his neck. “You’re completely ridiculous,” he said earnestly. “And if you buy out half of Saks every time I have a bad day, you’re going to go broke.”
Blaine smiled, and took Kurt’s trim little waist in his hands, pressing the curve of muscle under schoolboy wool. “You’ll still love me when I’m a pauper, though, right?”
Kurt’s eyelashes fluttered, and he kissed Blaine gently, his eyes huge and solemn. “I’ll always look back on our time together with great fondness—”
Kurt was still snickering when Blaine picked him up, tossed him on the bed, and landed on top of him.
The boots were army-style, brandless, the oldest, most worn ones Kurt seemed to own. Loose-laced and worn with slouchy black socks, his legs looked so long and muscular in them—bare legs, because other than the boots the only thing Kurt had on was a strappy undershirt that was so thin and diaphanous that the peaked pink of his nipples were clearly visible through it. If Blaine licked there, if he wet down the soft cotton with his mouth, it would melt and cling to those hard points and God…
“Blaine.” Kurt’s voice was throaty and low. “You can’t look at me like that and expect me to keep still. Come over here.”
“I’m almost done.” He’d brought an antique brocade chaise up to the loft because sometimes Kurt liked to watch him paint, and he wanted Kurt to have something better than the sprung-seat, lumpy armchair. But the loft was hot and Kurt was only marginally clothed, ankles crossed as he lounged on the chaise, the cowlick at the front of his hair curling aggressively forward, streaked magenta today, sexy punk badass boy. Blaine had to have it, so he abandoned Artist and Model III where it was, and picked up a sketch pad.
Collarbone, deltoid, clavicle—powerful and delicate and masculine, so hard to capture that combination, but it was the key, it was everything. The shirt had ridden up, and he would never get enough of drawing Kurt’s waist and stomach, he’d drawn it a thousand times and every time it did something to him, made some part of him melt and come apart and just want to crawl forward on his hands and knees and put his mouth there. The scratch of the pencil faded to a faint, barely-there whisper when he drew tight nipples under ribbed cotton, striving for the tease that was far more sexual than even straightforward nudity would have been.
Kurt was watching him. Kurt was hard, and watching him, and stroking himself lightly, negligently, almost lazily—white, smooth hand on his own flushed-red cock, lips parted to breathe and his cheeks starting to glow, shyness but no shame. It was like a kick to the chest, a heavy, sudden rush that sank into his balls and weakened his knees. “Kurt…”
Kurt licked his lips, stretching languorously, his hips flexing, pushing into his own hand. “In a contest between… your drawing hand, and—mmm—the hand I jerk off with, who do you think would win?”
Blaine’s pencil rattled when it hit the floor.
In the painting, Kurt had his far knee bent, his curled fingers barely holding his half-hard cock, his other arm behind his head, hanging off the side of the chaise. Crimson-streaked hair and lowered lashes and softly-parted lips, with the boots and the shirt it was pornographic and sweet and boyishly fierce, strong and vulnerable at once, and when it was done, Blaine found it almost impossible to look away from. Kurt was vital, vibrant, immediate, the image leaping off the canvas, sensual and contradictory. The chaise was a layer back, half-blurred with age and time. The backdrop was blurriest of all, black and sepia, steps and columns and the mellow glow of gaslamps burning.
“St. James’ Theatre,” he said to Kurt’s interrogatory look. “I mean—you know, when it existed.”
“And the painting?”
“Feasting With Panthers.”
“Of course it is.” Kurt slid an arm around his waist and leaned his head on Blaine’s shoulder. “I think Oscar Wilde would approve.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’d approve of you,” Blaine answered dryly, yelping a little when Kurt noogied him in the side.
Get him out of your house Blaine.
The text stared up at him from the screen of his phone, and Blaine went back into his bedroom and closed the door, cutting off the sound of the piano.
Thirty seconds later, he sent another one: why?
He sat there until Sebastian answered him.
The kind of kid you don’t think he is? He is.
Not even a ripple of dismay (or belief) in him, he was pleased to note. Proof?
Not yet. Soon. But send him away NOW.
Blaine shook his head. No. Nice try.
…and that was all.
Blaine was sweating, facedown in the sheets and moaning endlessly, in freefall because it was the first time he’d stopped being careful, the first time he’d stopped trying to take care of Kurt and let Kurt take care of him instead, rough fingers on his hips and strong legs pushing his thighs apart and deep, arching thrusts inside him right where he ached and needed the most. Sweat and unstoppable pleasure spiraling and Kurt read him perfectly, read him and moved him and opened him up and took him—and there was no holding back from all of that, no way to hold back from coming hard, his hands clenched in the sheets and Kurt’s hands clenched on his hips and he was throbbing, rocking, groaning and getting off while Kurt came in him, gasping in his ear, pulsing in counterpoint with his own contracting muscles.
There was barely a pause for breath, barely time to sigh and stretch his cramped leg before Kurt eased out of him, and when he looked over his shoulder he saw Kurt stripping off the condom, tossing it, and then opening another one, sliding it down over his still-hard cock with his face flushed bright and his hair a mess, so ridiculously hot that Blaine’s spent dick twinged and tried to be sixteen again. Kurt glanced up as he reached for the lube, the corner of his mouth twitching. “Let’s hear it for no refractory period.”
Blaine tried to say something, but it didn’t work out too well. Kurt climbed between his legs and sank into him with a deep, soft, pleasured sigh, and Blaine groaned embarrassingly loudly, his legs already aching and spreading and quivering a little.
“God, Blaine—you are so fucking sexy when you take it—I might go for three.”
Blaine made a sound that he tried to stifle in the pillows, and Kurt hitched in breath and huffed out laughter that slid straight into moaning, fucking him with long, smooth twists of his hips that made Blaine sweat and gasp and bite his lip, freefalling all over again.
Kurt ate maybe two bites of dinner, and since it was sole, and he liked sole, and the sauce Blaine had come up with was lemon-tarragon, and Kurt also liked those things, it called for some form of comment. “Another bad day?”
“No, I… no.” He put his fork down, leaning back in his chair. “I just… for the past few days, when I’ve gone out, I’ve thought someone was following me. And I know it’s probably just me being paranoid, but…” he shrugged. “Maybe not. I just don’t know what to do about it—not yet.”
Blaine put his own fork down. “What… following you?”
“Yeah—don’t go all problem-solver on me, Blaine—it’s nothing I can’t handle, and I shouldn’t have even mentioned it because I can’t really—”
“I know,” Blaine said, having already decided exactly what the problem was and precisely how to solve it. “You can’t talk about it.”
“No. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry, Kurt.”
Someone was going to be sorry. But not Kurt. Not if he could help it.
“You’re having him followed.”
Silence on the other end of the line. Then a tsk. “Well. That’s the last time I outsource labor to that particular individual—”
“Send me a bill, Sebastian. This is over.”
“No. Send the bill. Pad it extravagantly, I don’t care—I’ll pay it. But stop, right now. I’m calling it off. It was a bad idea, and I never should have talked to you about it in the first place—”
“He’s not who you think he is, Blaine.” Sebastian’s voice was calm. “He’s bad news.”
Blaine closed his eyes. “You know what? I don’t care who he was, or what he’s done or had to do in order to get where he is now. I care about who he is now, nothing else, and nothing is going to make me stop loving him.”
“Oh, spoken like a true idiot, Blaine! You can’t possibly—”
“’Bye, Sebastian,” Blaine said calmly, and hung up.
He’d dealt with his post-talking-to-Sebastian guilt by shopping it away, surprisingly successfully, so it really made no sense why his post-sending-Sebastian-packing guilt was proving to be such a bitch.
But it was. Blaine sat on the chaise and stared at the still-unfinished Artist and Model III, cursing his lack of focus and a whole host of other things while he was at it.
“What is it, Blaine?” Kurt, at the top of the stairs, probably shocked to his core to find Blaine up here without a brush in his hand.
Blaine just shook his head, and pressed his lips together when Kurt straddled his lap and slid soft, warm arms around his neck.
“It’s nothing, it’s… I’m having a hard time painting, that’s all.” Technically, true. Still, he felt sick to his stomach saying it. He couldn’t meet Kurt’s eyes; for the first time ever, he couldn’t, and when Kurt tugged him close he went, resting his head on Kurt’s chest, needing the comfort of the hand sliding over the back of his neck even though he didn’t feel like he deserved it.
“It’s okay, Blaine,” Kurt whispered to the top of his head, planting a kiss there before resting his cheek on it. “If you decide you want to talk about it, I’m here. I’ll listen.”
Blaine closed his eyes.
He knew it was bad when he spent a day with Quinn, and the next day with Tina, and couldn’t bring himself to tell either of them what he’d done. He spent the day after that wandering through the city by himself—whether as a result of being followed or for some other reason, Kurt was keeping close to home these days, and Blaine couldn’t stand being there, with the quiet, couldn’t stand not being able to talk to him, didn’t know how Kurt could live like that.
He’d gotten about a hundred messages, e-mails and texts from Sebastian. He dumped them all, and finally set up blocks on his phone.
Kurt was worried about him, obviously worried, and on the third day, as he wandered the path around Lands’ End, Blaine decided that the only thing to do was have it out—he realized it first with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, but then with something akin to hope: he would tell Kurt what he’d done, and why, and Kurt would be angry and hurt but then… then they could move on. And maybe they could finally talk about it, about everything, because secrets were clearly far more dangerous than any truth could ever be.
Blaine found his hands sweating when he pulled up in the driveway, his stomach rolling queasily. Part of him wanted to take a moment to collect himself, but the rest of him recognized that for the cowardly and futile self-serving instinct it was and pressed on, out of the car and into the house and up—right away. He was going to get this over with right away, sit Kurt down and tell him everything and beg him not to leave if he had to, he was going to—
Blaine stood in the doorway of Kurt’s room, and at first nothing sank in—something wrong, there was something very wrong, and his eyes were looking right at it but his stupid brain was refusing to tell him what it was… and that’s when it kicked in: not something wrong, everything wrong.
The room was empty, as bland and blank as any hotel room, only with the dresser and desk drawers yawning open and empty, the wardrobe and closet doors ajar, host to nothing more than a forest of hangers.
The room was empty, and Kurt was gone.
His feet almost skidded out from under him when he hit the bottom of the stairs, and Blaine pinwheeled a little before he made the turn and went for the front door, yanking it open.
Sebastian was standing there, and Blaine almost barreled right into him. “Sebastian, God—I don’t have time for you right now, okay? There’s—whoever’s been after Kurt got him, they took him, he’s gone and I don’t have time… wait, wait, no—you know, right? Who’s after him? I need to know, I need to know everything—”
“Nobody ‘got’ him, Blaine. He left on his own.”
His hand was on the doorknob, and everything in him was zooming along at a frantic, breakneck pace, circling panic and the urgent need to move. Outside, he was just standing there, trying to connect, trying to make his brain work—he needed it, now, needed it badly—trying to catch up. “He left?”
“This morning—in a cab. With a giant duffel bag that looked like it weighed a ton. I’ve been sitting in my car across the street all day; I saw him go.”
His heart felt crushed, pressure deep in his chest, numb and awful. “What… oh my God, Sebastian, what did you do?”
Sebastian scratched his chin with the back of his thumb. “He’s a blackmailer, Blaine. You were the next person on his list—if it’s any consolation to you, I don’t think he sought you out for it, I think you were just… an opportunity. And I tried to tell you, Blaine; I tried to tell you that you were being led around by the dick by a fucking sixteen-year-old criminal, but you—”
“What. Did. You. Do?”
“I slipped a letter through your mailslot this morning after you left, unsigned and anonymous, telling him that you knew all about it, that the authorities had been informed as well as the people in Ohio who want him, and that they were all on their way—”
“You told… the police… and—Ohio?”
“Oh, God no,” Sebastian said, looking horrified. “I would never expose you like that. The police aren’t even a possibility, given the circumstances—it was just the only thing I could say to him to make sure he’d go, fast, and never, ever look back—”
He didn’t consciously decide to punch Sebastian—one moment Sebastian was there, deepening Blaine’s horror with every word, and the next moment he was rolling on the stoop, holding his nose and screaming.
Blaine shut the front door. He stared at it, blinking, for a few seconds, then opened it again. Sebastian had managed to sit up. There was blood all over his face, his hands, his shirtfront.
“You’re fired,” Blaine said, and shut the door again.
He drove around the city. He drove home. Called Kurt. Number disconnected.
He sat down on Kurt’s bed, waiting to be calm. It kept not happening. It all felt unreal, nightmarish and impossible and unbelievable and unacceptable when it was only hours ago, just that morning, that he’d left the house he shared with Kurt, the life he shared with Kurt, the…
He hadn’t said goodbye. He’d been guilty and conflicted and ashamed of himself and eager to get away, just as he had been for the past three days—and he hadn’t even said goodbye.
No wonder Kurt believed a fucking anonymous letter. Blaine hadn’t even said goodbye to him.
Blaine curled up on his side on the bed, put his face in Kurt’s pillow, and broke down.
He cried a lot. He drank a lot. He had a vague memory of drunk-dialing Sebastian and calling him a bunch of really true and applicable names. He searched Kurt’s room, every inch of it—nothing. He took a picture of Kurt down to the library and found the reference librarian who’d helped him—who, in fact, thought he was just the nicest, sweetest young man on the planet and hoped he wasn’t in any trouble—but there was nothing useful; she wouldn’t even tell him what kind of books Kurt had asked for, other than she said she thought he must be pre-law.
He found the taxi service that had picked Kurt up, and for a small bribe was allowed the information that Kurt had left the taxi at the Church street Muni station. Dead end.
On the second, exhaustive search of Kurt’s room, he finally realized what a fucking idiot he was, because he hadn’t done anything with the computer other than pick it up to look underneath it.
There was nothing on the computer. No files, no internet history—it was as brand-new and empty as it was when the tech guy who delivered it had set it up and told him it was ready to go. The day Kurt moved in.
But—Kurt had used the computer. Constantly, when he first came. Not so much, later.
He had another tech guy there within the hour—yes, he understood he would need to pay the premium rate for a housecall after work hours, no problem, really—and half an hour after that, he had recovered data to go through.
Not much of it. Bookmarks: Muni and BART, The Castro Theatre, Broadway.com, Epicurious. And one file: For Blaine. It was a Word document. His throat went dry as soon as he clicked on it, and his eyes stung as soon as it opened, and he saw the first words:
The Whole Story
Blaine ground the heels of his hands into his eyes to clear them, then leaned forward in Kurt’s chair and started scrolling.
It’s really hard not talking to you. I started this for you once I realized how badly I’d hamstrung myself, but also as a way to lay it all out. Because I’ve been running for a long time, and there’s not a lot of chances to reflect on things under those circumstances. So really it was for me, too.
It’s so strange, going through this. It’s weird to think that as well as I know you, as well as you know me, and as close as we are now, there’s still so much you don’t know. So much I’ve never been able to tell you.
So I’ll tell you now, like this. Even though I don’t know if you’ll ever see it.
My name is Kurt Hummel and I’m from Lima, Ohio. I had a pretty normal life up until I was six years old, which is when my father died of congestive heart failure.
I remember him, and my mother, as being good parents, close and loving with each other, and wonderful with me (my particular flame burned very brightly, from a very young age). I remember my father joining me at tea parties I set up in the backyard (play-doh petit-fours, Blaine, you would have loved it), letting me show him the proper way to keep his pinky extended when he sipped. He was a solidly blue-collar car mechanic in a small Midwestern town, but I believe that he knew all about me, and loved me just the same. I’ve wondered a lot about how my life might have been different, if he hadn’t died.
My father’s death was terrible, of course, for both me and my mother, but she never was the same, after that. She went into what I now know was a very deep depression, to the point where my Grandma Hummel came and took me for a few weeks, while mom got ‘back on her feet’.
What got my mom back on her feet was the people who came to see her, who reached out to her after her terrible loss. Of course, I’m talking about church people. When my mom came to get me from Grandma Hummel’s, she asked me to say a prayer with her in the car, a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving to Jesus that we were back together. She had never said anything like that before, but what the hell, she was my mom and I was so glad to see her, I prayed with her, no big deal.
My mother has never been officially diagnosed, and I am conspicuously lacking in a Psychology degree, but I lived with her through the next nine years, and I feel entirely confident in saying that she has bipolar disorder with associated religious mania. And because of the protection afforded religious people in our society, the question of whether or not she was sick (or fit to be a parent) was never seriously asked. Not by anyone who mattered, anyway.
From that point on, the only thing worthwhile in my life was school. Church took up everything else. I started doing my homework at the library, then started staying there as long as I was allowed to every single day, because it was the only place I could be away from relentless prayer and religious talk and praising Jesus every five seconds.
Still, I went to church with my mom and did everything she asked of me, and it really didn’t seem to matter much that I did all of it without ever believing in God. It was what my mother needed, in order to function. And I went along.
I was thirteen years old when Pastor Daniels gave a sermon on ‘The Demon of Homosexuality’. The upshot of this sermon was that gay people aren’t born that way, they’re possessed by demons; that at some point in their lives they turned away from God’s love, and gay demons snuck in. I know now that this is a pretty common belief among fundamentalist Christians, but at the time, it was all new to me. And I thought it was the stupidest fucking thing I had ever heard. I mean, I heard ridiculous, crazy things in church every damn week, but I thought of most of it as ‘harmless’ (or, I did then). But that wasn’t harmless. Not at all.
My mom spent most of the sermon looking at me, like really looking at me, and she was so calm, not fervent or crazy or rapturous, just calm, that I thought maybe the sermon had gotten through to her the way it got through to me. I thought about it on the way home, and she was quiet, and I knew she was thinking too.
When we got home, I did it. I told her I was gay. And she just nodded, and said that she knew, that she’d always known, since I was a little boy. And she was glad of the sermon, because now she finally knew what to do about it; that we were strong people, she and I, and with perfect faith in the power of God, with both of us calling on the blessing of Jesus’ love, I would be healed, and made whole.
That was the breaking point for me, the moment when I stopped ‘going along’. I told her I was done with praying, and done with church, that there was nothing wrong with me being the way that I was.
The next year was the worst I’d ever been through up to that point, even worse than the year my father died. My mom didn’t care much for her rebellious, gay-demon-infested, heretic son walking away from her every time she called on Jesus to heal my suffering. I was terrified and angry and so deeply hurt by turns, and because the only kids I was allowed to associate with were other church kids, I had no friends to turn to.
When I started high school, things got better for me, at least a little. I found other kids like me (not gay, but misfits, outcasts, which at the time was the biggest relief ever). Yes, I got bullied a lot, but compared to what I went through at home, I always felt like I could deal with it. I joined the school’s Glee club, and spent every possible moment I could with the kids I met there. Of course I couldn’t ever bring them home with me, and I wouldn’t have wanted to. Even my friend Mercedes would have been labeled an apostate, as she didn’t go to the ‘right’ church (mom’s church, of course).
But that whole year, my relationship with mom deteriorated terribly. I lived for my time away from home, and when I was with my friends I didn’t talk about my home life at all. They knew I had a very religious home life, they didn’t know that I had been forbidden to see or speak to my own grandmother because she was a Catholic, or that my mom regularly tried to exorcise the demons out of me, or that the thing that made me cry the hardest wasn’t being tossed in a dumpster or having a slushie thrown in my face, but the moments when I missed my mom, the woman who used to sing to me and play the piano with me and dance with me in the kitchen when we made lunch together for dad.
I spent the summer after my freshman year pining to go back to school. I stayed at the library as much as I could, learning as much as I could, reading as much as I could, but mom got more and more strict as the summer went on, and eventually she said the library was obviously a Godless place, and I wasn’t to go there any more. The last two weeks of vacation were like slow torture, waiting for school to start again. And then mom said we needed to go shopping for school clothes, and I hopped in the car like some stupid, trusting dog who doesn’t know he’s being driven to the pound, and mom drove me to Lost Lambs Home, and left me there.
The Home is ostensibly a ‘school’ for boys, but that’s not what it really is at all. The dean of the school is a man named George Todhunter Bryant, and his personal mission is to save the souls of all the poor lost lambs infested with gay demons. It’s a fundamentalist Christian reeducation camp, with some major fucked-up special twists that Dr. Bryant has added on his own.
I lasted three days there before I ran away. I went back to Lima first, and waited until mom left the house to go to church. Then I went in through the basement window and took all of my things that I couldn’t live without, and I also took the college fund money that mom refused to trust to a bank; the first and only time I was ever grateful for her paranoia.
I was fifteen, I didn’t have a real plan. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that I had to go. I suppose for my first run at it, I didn’t do too badly, although I made some major mistakes: namely, that I stayed close to home (just the next town over), and I let someone know where I was.
Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared, and the thought of heading off somewhere with no plan and no experience and no idea where I was going was terrifying at that point. So I got in touch with Mr. Schuester, one of my high school teachers (I knew him best because he also taught Glee club), and told him what had happened.
He turned out not to be a good choice, but I don’t know that there were any better ones. He just kept insisting that of course my mom loved me, that all teenagers went through ‘rough patches’ at home, and he seemed stuck on the fact that because I’d answered his question about whether or not I’d been beaten with ‘no’, there must not be any ‘real’ problem.
Lima is a small town, and it’s almost impossible to keep a secret there. I don’t know who he told, but he must have told somebody, because word eventually got around to my mom that he knew where I was. She went to him, and she asked him, and he told her. And she told Dr. Bryant, and the next morning Dr. Bryant and two of his burlier ‘students’ showed up at the rattrap motel I was staying at, and took me back to the Home.
There’s a big piece missing here, Blaine, and it’s really hard to write about. What makes the Home different is Dr. Bryant’s combined techniques of God and Science in ridding children of their gay demons; he holds forth on it, pontificates on it in a grand, evangelical style, but he’s very careful never to come out and admit that what he uses is a combination of drugs that amount to chemical castration. Shots and pills, a combination of hormones and anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic and anti-depression medications, which were never meant to be taken together, all of which suppress the sex drive, as well as the personality and any capacity for rational thought.
I lost eight months. I remember routine, and calm, and looking at everything as if through a pane of thick ice. I remember praying when told to pray. I remember testifying that I was no longer troubled by demons. I remember my mother coming to visit me, crying and throwing her arms around Dr. Bryant, calling him a divine instrument of the Lord’s will. I remember her telling me she loved me for the first time in so, so long, and I remember watching her give Dr. Bryant a fat envelope, a ‘donation’.
It’s all fuzzy. It’s all blended and indistinct. The next really distinct thing I remember is Jeremiah.
He was older, nineteen or twenty, but his parents had placed him legally under conservatorship, and shipped him off to the Home because they couldn’t bear the thought of having a gay son. He didn’t adjust well. Dr. Bryant said he’d do fine once his medication ‘gave God some room to work with’, but two nights later Jeremiah took a metal kitchen knife and cut his own throat right in front of me while we were cleaning up from dinner.
They got to him in time, he didn’t manage to kill himself. But there was so much blood, and I was just standing there in the kitchen just staring down at it.
It was like being slapped. It broke the ice that glazed over everything, just for a second, and all of a sudden, just for a second, I could think. I was me.
I started ditching my pills the next day. I couldn’t do anything about the shots, as they were administered by Dr. Bryant himself, but I cheeked and flushed the pills from then on.
I was very careful. Probably the hardest acting job I’ve ever had or will ever have, remaining as zombielike as possible while slowly waking up to everything going on around me. First I was just waiting for my chance to get away, but soon that just wasn’t enough for me: I wanted proof. I wanted to stop him. I wanted to make it impossible for him to do what he did to me, and Jeremiah, and all of the others, to any other kid.
It was another four months before I ran. I gathered bits and pieces of information, I snooped carefully and unobtrusively, and slowly the whole thing started to come together.
Dr. Bryant gets a lot of money. From parents (a lot of the students are from wealthy families), but also from churches and nonprofits, and from the state. He has a medical license, and he’s really, really good at either paying or intimidating people who get a little too interested in his phenomenal ‘success rate’ with ‘curing’ gays. He keeps his fame strictly limited to those in the faith, which works perfectly because one of the primary beliefs in fundamentalist Christianity is that everyone else is an enemy, so of course you don’t talk to them. You especially don’t talk to them about your ‘miracles’.
The night I finally went, I broke into his office. I copied a ton of information from his computer (the only one in the place) onto a flash drive, scanned a bunch of papers from his files and took those too, and rifled his desk, scanning everything I could. And I found something I didn’t expect: a sticky note containing a bunch of numbers, including one that turned out to be the combination to the safe in his office. In the safe I found cash, almost ten thousand dollars, an open-ended plane ticket to Brunei (which, in case you didn’t know, has no extradition treaty with the U.S.), Dr. Bryant’s passport, and a ton of bearer bonds.
I took the cash. I didn’t even think twice about it. And then I ran.
Until the first time you kissed me, I don’t think anything felt better to me in my whole life than that first night out did. I was scared, yes, I was fucking terrified, but I was out, I was free, and I was absolutely determined to do everything right, do everything possible so that I would never, ever have to go back.
It was actually a coin toss, New York or San Francisco. San Francisco, with no intentional pun on my part, was tails. And tails won.
There’s a warrant out for my arrest in the state of Ohio: for burglary, attempted larceny, and attempted extortion—I guess that was all he could nail me with, for taking his money. There’s also a juvenile welfare court action assuming jurisdiction over me because I’m a minor ‘in danger of leading a lewd, idle, immoral and dissolute life’.
So I’m a criminal, Blaine. For a whole bunch of reasons. But mostly I’m a criminal because I refused to give up being who I am, and I refused to stay where they put me. I refused, and continue to refuse, to feel guilty for loving you, although I do feel guilty that, by loving you, I’ve made you a criminal too.
As you’ve probably surmised by now if you’ve read this far, the people who recognized me that morning on the Wharf were from Glee club. They were here for a competition, and I’m really happy and proud of them, but oh my God why there and then? When I saw Mr. Schuester all I could think was that he’d betrayed me last time, and he’d do it again, so I ran.
It just occurred to me, thinking about you reading this, that you might wonder why I just didn’t tell you everything. I couldn’t tell you, Blaine. At first it was just principles: not to tell anybody anything, because it’s the only way to stay safe. But after that, even when I knew you would be a safe person to tell, I knew you were the last person I could tell. You’re a problem-solver, you know, as I’ve told you before, and I know you love me very much. If I told you, I don’t think you’d be able to stay out of it, and with you in it there would be no real way to keep our relationship a secret—and that would be the end of your career, for sure.
And I couldn’t, I can’t do that. Someday you’re going to stop painting gorgeous, crazy pictures of me and go back to what you really do, which is make art and books and movies that remind people of what it meant to be a child. I’m not going to put all that at risk. I’m not going to put you at risk, any more than I already have. So I’m writing all this down for you, and maybe someday when you’re sixty-five and I’m forty-seven, if you still love me, I’ll sit myself down (carefully) on your lap and put these pages in your hand and say: I’m sorry you had to wait so long.
I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you, Blaine. And I’m sorry for so many other things. I know it can’t be easy for you, loving me, worrying about me and never knowing what’s wrong, or when I’m going to start screaming in my sleep.
In my nightmares, everything is beyond the ice. The needle is coming towards my arm, and his face is there. In my nightmares they find me ditching the pills and make me swallow them, over and over, and Jeremiah’s throat is my throat, and I look at you and I don’t recognize you, and I can’t love you, because I can’t feel anything at all.
Then you wake me up, and the ice breaks, and you’re you again, and I can, and do, love you with my whole heart. And that’s my version of what a miracle is.
Blaine didn’t cry. He needed to, he was aware that he kind of needed to cry for probably a couple hours in order to deal with all that, but for right now, he needed to think.
He read the file again, this time with his brain clicking and whirring (problem-solving, ha), clamping down on everything from murderous rage (oh, there was so much of that) to endless sadness, to something that was just a deep, desperate need for Kurt, the words so evocative of him, an ache so painful it felt like it could cripple him, if he let it.
He didn’t. He took his phone out of his pocket. Tina answered on the first ring. “Blaine, where have you been? Quinn and I were just talking about you, we’ve been trying to reach you for—”
“I need you,” he said, and only then realized what bad shape his voice was in—it was only a harsh croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “You, and Quinn—I need your help. Can you… will you come over?”
“I… of course, Blaine. She’s here with me now, we’ll be right there.”
He hung up the phone, scrolled back to the top of the document, and started reading again.
He gave them the high (and low) points of what had happened, then handed copies of Kurt’s journal to each of them, and tried to steady his hands enough to make coffee while they sat at the kitchen table and read. Quinn uttered several variations on ‘oh my God’ as she went on, and then started sniffling a bit. Tina read slowly, her brows drawn together, saying nothing.
Blaine set out coffee. Quinn opened her compact and repaired her eye makeup. Tina finally finished reading, and looked up, looked right at him, her face calm except for two bright spots in her cheeks and a gleam in her eyes. “I want to help.”
Quinn sniffed again. “Me too.”
He’d kept it together so far, but he almost lost it right there.
“The problem isn’t making the film, Blaine. I can do that; it’ll take some time, of course, and a chunk of your money, but I can do it. The problem is that while I can put it up on Youtube and my website, there’s no way to make it go viral, no way to guarantee he’d ever see it.”
“I know. Which brings me to the second part of my idea.” He turned to Quinn. “Which is why I need your help.”
They were upstairs, in the loft. He’d brought them up there to show them the footage he had, and he’d braced himself for it, but it still hurt like he’d been stabbed in the chest when his screen filled up with Kurt sitting at the piano, working his way through a campy rendition of ‘Brand New Key’.
Quinn was still going through the video files, but she stopped when he spoke to her. “What can I do?”
“First, don’t strangle me when I tell you the second part of my idea.”
Her eyebrow arched. “Okay?”
“And second…” He sighed. “I’m going to need a new lawyer.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “A really good lawyer. Except… maybe someone who’s not a total dick?”
Quinn smiled resignedly. “I’m going to absolutely hate this idea, aren’t I?”
“Don’t strangle me.”
The three of them talked late into the night, going over everything, making changes to what went from ‘an idea’ to ‘the plan’ over the course of the conversation. Once they were gone he was wrung out, exhausted, and he crawled into Kurt’s bed without realizing what he was doing, then was too tired to move, when he did realize it.
He curled up around a pillow that smelled faintly sweet and boyish and made his heart twist in his chest, and went to sleep.
Santana Lopez arrived on a beautifully restored vintage Triumph, wearing five-inch stiletto Louboutins and a nicely tailored Armani suit. Blaine didn’t say anything out loud, but the inner-Kurt-that-lived-in-his-head kind of swooned over the whole package.
“Hi,” she said when he held the door open for her, sweeping by in a faint cloud of the same perfume Quinn wore whenever she had a date. “You’re the guy who shacked up with a sixteen-year-old kid, right?”
“And you’re making a video about how he’s running from some creepy religious nut who drugged him to make him less gay?”
“And doing a public art show of all the wanky pictures you painted of him?”
She smiled, and held out her hand. “Santana Lopez, your new counsel. I’m in.”
Blaine shook with her, and grinned. He couldn’t help it. “Really? I mean—good, Quinn says you’re amazing, I’m just… kind of surprised.”
She shrugged. “Look, short stack—first of all, you’re famous. That means media exposure, and lots of it. Add in sex scandal? Even more exposure. Underage-runaway-gay-sex scandal? Frenzy. And once you get to the part about religious kooks with gay drug cures—we are talking about a media shitstorm of epic proportions, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Oh.” He paused. “I thought lawyers didn’t like publicity.”
She smiled again, this time with her teeth. All of them. “They do if they want to be famous lawyers who everyone remembers because they won.”
She took a pair of half-glasses out of her pocket and slipped them on. “But don’t let that give you the idea that I won’t charge you a ridiculous amount of money to keep your ass out of jail, because I will.”
Blaine blinked. “Okay.”
“So, here’s the thing,” she told him later, sipping cranberry juice and peering at him over the top of her glasses while she took notes. “Just one thing, but very, very important—do not, under any circumstances, admit to having sex with him.”
Blaine’s mouth fell open. “But… I mean… the whole plan—”
She stopped him with one finger held up. “You can admit to knowing him. Living with him. Painting him. Marching with him at Pride wearing matching Britney Spears outfits—whatever turns you on. But when the question comes up—‘did you have a sexual relationship with him?’ I need you to say: ‘no comment’.”
“Yes, oh. Because that’s basically the cornerstone of my whole plan, the one where you don’t get locked up.”
Blaine swallowed. “I… okay. As long as I don’t have to deny it.”
Santana squinted at him. “And don’t say stupid shit like that.”
“Are you comfortable, Blaine?”
Blaine shifted in his chair. “Uh, no. But I’m ready.”
Tina leaned forward and took his hand for a moment. Her skin was warm and soft. “You’ll be fine.”
Under the lights he felt nervous and self-conscious and very much like a bug under a microscope, but there was no way around this part of it. “Okay.”
Tina turned to her crew, got a thumbs-up, and turned back. “How did you meet Kurt?”
Blaine took a deep breath, and started talking. The lights bore down on him.
Afterwards, he felt drained, a dry husk, and when Tina hugged him, it was hard to let go.
“You did just fine. It’ll look great.”
The crew was finishing the last of the packing-up, heading down the loft stairs one by one. “I just… I hope this works, that’s all.”
Blaine rubbed his face. “Do you want some coffee? I could—”
She shook her head. “I can’t, Blaine. I have to get home and pack. I’m flying to Ohio tonight.”
“Yes—you have to stop zoning out during strategy sessions.” She stopped packing her satchel, and sat down across from him again. “What we’re about to do, well, we’re going off of Kurt’s journal—but Kurt’s not here to back it up.”
“Not yet, but—”
“Exactly. Not yet. I have to go there before the circus starts. I have to get as much corroboration as I can before everything gets zipped up tight. Once this breaks, we’re going to have a lot less room to maneuver.”
“Right.” He really needed to stop zoning out during strategy sessions.
Blaine did grand gestures. Bold strokes. He was good at those. But the endless, detail-ridden, contingency-planning part of the whole process just made his stomach lurch at the stunning array of things that could potentially go wrong, so for the most part, he stayed out of it. With Tina in Ohio, Quinn and Santana commandeered his kitchen table and covered it with laptops, scribbled notes, law books, and newspapers. Blaine cooked for them, ran errands when needed, and spent the rest of his time up in the loft, staring at the still-unfinished Artist and Model III, and trying not to wonder where Kurt was. If he was okay. If he would understand, when it all came down.
Tina was back three days later. “I came straight here from the airport,” she said, letting Blaine take her heavy equipment case. “I need to start editing right away, but I thought you’d want to see.”
Blaine’s chest tightened painfully for a moment. “Did you get it?” Santana and Quinn looked up from the table expectantly.
Tina looked at him. She looked exhausted, dark circles under her eyes, but she was smiling faintly. “I got it.”
Blaine wrapped her up and held on. Santana and Quinn high-fived each other.
The day the video went up, Blaine stayed in the loft. He heard Quinn on the phone, then Santana, heard them both at the door, answering questions and giving short interviews—the PR machine ticking along like clockwork. Everything seemed slightly unreal, distinct and sharp but with a vague feeling that it all might just be a hallucination.
“Fox News is about to interview Bryant,” Santana told him from the top of the stairs. “You may want to see this.”
He went downstairs and made a fresh pot of coffee, then went over to the kitchen table where Tina and Quinn and Santana were all watching the freestanding flat-screen they’d set up on the wall.
“—a truly disturbing story involving beloved children’s author and creator of the hugely popular Fabulous Monsters series, Blaine Anderson—”
“I’ll come back later,” he said, wheeling around, but Santana said ‘shh!’ and Tina took his hand, so he sat down.
Through the newscaster’s voice over, there were clips from the interview, then clips of Kurt, playing the piano and singing, slicing mushrooms and sassing him with that raised, sardonic eyebrow and faint smile—his heart thumped painfully, and Tina squeezed his hand. He squeezed back.
They cut to the interview. Tina. “Did you know he was sixteen?”
“Yes.” Tina was right—she had made him look good. Or at least, harmless. “He told me he was, the first time I met him. But after a while, after getting to know him, I stopped thinking of him as a particular age. He’s just… a person. A smart, talented, wonderful person, and I love him very much.” It was strange, watching his own throat work on the screen, remembering how hard it had been in that moment not to completely lose it. “And I miss him. I miss him a lot, and I hope, wherever he is, that he’s okay.”
Back to the newscaster. “Representatives for Mr. Anderson have neither confirmed nor denied a sexual relationship between the artist and the young man. The documentary goes on to allege that Kurt Hummel fled to San Francisco from the Lost Lambs Home in Ohio, a Christian boarding school for boys, run by Dr. George Bryant. The documentary further alleges that the school is a cover for a ‘conversion therapy’ program intended to change the sexual orientation of gay teens, and that students were given dangerous drugs as part of their therapy. Dr. Bryant granted our request for an interview.”
Blaine didn’t realize he was shaking until Tina squeezed his hand again. He tried to stop, but he couldn’t.
Bryant was large, florid, balding, and wore half-glasses low on his nose. He appeared to be entirely composed. “Well, it’s all nonsense, of course. This is a boys’ school—we teach strong, Christian principles, we teach them to love learning and to love God, we teach them fellowship and Christian decency. Mr. Hummel was a remarkably troubled young man, absolutely bent on turning away from salvation. I personally took a great interest in his education and well-being, and I’m afraid he repaid my kindness with thefts and threats of extortion. He is wanted by the law, you know.”
“Blaine.” Blaine let Tina have her hand back. She shook it out, wincing. He turned back to Bryant.
“Be that as it may, the truth is that Kurt Hummel deserved compassion and understanding, he needed those things desperately in order to bring him to Jesus’ love. He did not deserve to be molested by a pedophile who made him pose for pornographic pictures, and who furthermore seems to be the last person to have seen him alive.”
Quinn uttered a soft squawk of surprise. Tina gasped. Santana said, “Oh hell no—”
Blaine said nothing. He just stared.
“There’s a war going on in this country: a war against Christians; a war against God. The secular humanists will stop at nothing to turn public feeling against us, to turn our good works into something as depraved as their own practices are.”
There was a bit more of the talking-head newscaster, and then a commercial. Santana turned off the television with the remote half-buried under a pile of papers. The sudden quiet seemed very loud.
“He’s trying to intimidate Kurt,” Blaine said, feeling his nails digging into his palms.
“That, and sell the idea that you killed him,” Santana drawled. “I think… he might know something we don’t.”
Blaine’s stomach folded in on itself. “What?”
“I don’t know—but I’m going to find out.” She got to her feet. “I need to go to my office and do some digging.”
“What about the Ohio interview?” Tina asked. “It’s ready to go. Do I put it up?”
Quinn nodded. “It’s… timing. Right now, we’ve got a pebble to throw. But by tomorrow’s news cycle, once Bryant’s saturated everything with his story—”
“Rock,” Tina said, nodding.
“Giant fucking boulder, I hope,” Santana said, shrugging into her leather jacket and zipping it up.
Tina had to go back to her office and Quinn said she had business to handle, so Blaine found himself sitting at his kitchen table, alone in his house for the first time in what seemed like forever. It was too quiet. He turned the TV back on.
War on Christians, war on God. It was everywhere. He flipped channels for hours, watching the same content over and over, watching things slowly spiral out of control, wondering if this was what it felt like to go crazy.
“I didn’t even know he was a homo,” said a mother of five, a woman-on-the-street interview on the local news. “My kids love them books. Brad Junior watches that first movie over and over, knows every line, it’s the only thing that keeps him quiet. But no more, it’s all going in the trash tonight—shut up, Bradley, or I’ll give you something to cry about—”
He was still at it, watching a public burning of his books in South Carolina, when Santana came back. “Turn that shit off,” she said curtly. “You’ll make yourself crazy, watching that.”
Quinn and Santana had been right about the timing issue; Tina uploaded her interview with a former Lost Lambs Home resident named David Karofsky the next day, just in time to hit the evening news cycle, and since in the interview he confirmed everything that had been alleged in the first video, it hit the network and cable news channels with all the force that even Santana could have wished for.
“Yeah, the drugs.” Just a dark silhouette; he’d requested anonymity. “Pills and shots, all the time. Those drugs, it’s like… like an elephant sitting on your chest or something. Everything’s just… gone. It’s horrible. And yeah, I didn’t feel like I was gay anymore—but that’s because I didn’t feel like I was anything. I didn’t know if I was alive or dead, and I didn’t really care.”
Bryant granted Fox News another interview. He still looked perfectly composed. “When you have a school where a percentage of the population is there due to major emotional and behavioral problems, you’re going to see this kind of attention-seeking behavior. As for the people who coerced that poor, disturbed child into saying those things, well—the homosexual agenda includes the suppression of all religion; they seek to put an end to the core principles our founding fathers fought and died for. The fact that they cloak it in ‘human rights’ language is an atrocity, a dog-whistle that the liberal elites respond to. The homosexuals are only another battalion in the war on God.”
Despite Bryant’s interview there was finally some traction, a few politicians and a bunch of talking heads from various gay-rights organizations calling for an investigation; the tone had shifted. Stephen Colbert did a segment on his show called War on God 2012: The Christpocalypse (brought to you by Cool Ranch Doritos) that made Tina laugh so hard she had tears in her eyes.
But still, no Kurt. Not a whisper or a word.
“Look,” Santana told Blaine across the kitchen table, leaning tiredly on her hand. “I know you hoped that once the shit hit the fan he’d come popping up like a weirdly-dressed prairie dog out of a bedazzled hole, but that’s… he’s being careful, that’s all. He’s being smart. Ohio still wants him, and even if they didn’t, his mother still has custody—and she’s probably got Bryant on speed-dial.”
Blaine nodded, and went to make more coffee. He was cleaning out the grinder when Quinn came in with her face all scrunched up and wrong-looking.
She shook her head when Blaine asked what was wrong, and then burst into tears when he put a hand on her shoulder. “I just got off the phone with Disney,” she told him between sobs. “They said you violated your morals clause. They’re stopping production of the next movie, and suing you for breach of contract.”
All he felt was a faint, exhausted echo of combined relief and contempt, but he didn’t tell her that. He held her until she stopped crying. “It’s okay, Quinn—”
“It’s not okay,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I’ve got a call with Viking this afternoon, and it’s going to be a bloodbath. You’re going to be—”
“I wanted out,” he said quietly, rubbing her back. “I’m sorry, but I did. I lost interest after the third book. Everything else has just been… going through the motions. Not what I really wanted to do.”
She sniffed and pulled back, her brows drawn low. “You… why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because… I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Now I am—I’m an artist, Quinn, a painter. Not an illustrator. And I’ll thrive, or I’ll starve, on that.”
The look she gave him suggested that she had her suspicions about which possibility out of the two was most likely, but she just nodded, resigned, and asked if it was too early in the day to start drinking wine.
“I’m pretty sure someone in the juvenile justice system is a true believer.”
Blaine sat up and turned around when Santana came in, clicking the television off. “What? Who?”
“I don’t know yet,” Santana replied irritably, and sank down into one of the kitchen chairs with a heavy sigh. “But even before we started the shitstorm, I was hitting a wall in Ohio, trying to get him out from under—they want him, bad. And it didn’t make sense—the extortion complaint is sworn out in the vaguest language I’ve ever seen, the theft described as ‘petty cash’—”
“Ten thousand dollars is petty cash?”
She raised an exquisitely-arched eyebrow at him. “I don’t think Bryant wanted to admit that Kurt made off with his skedaddle money.”
“But here’s the thing—the lockups for juvie offenders in Ohio are clogged—like they are everywhere. So there’s some latitude in where they send kids, depending on the offense. And it looks like they’ve sent a bunch of them—not sure how many, not yet—to the Home. Guess which kids?”
“The gay ones.”
“That’s how Bryant qualified the Home for state funds.”
He tilted his head. “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal—the part where you send gay offenders to a conversion camp, I mean.”
“Right. But only if we can prove it is one.” She shook her head. “It’s a beautiful setup. Relieve overcrowding in juvenile institutions, do ‘God’s work’, get state money—and the only people hurt by it are a handful of queer kids, and who’s gonna give a shit about that?”
He was shocked, absolutely shocked, when she started crying—not bawling or sobbing, just… tears, her eyes bright and overfull. “Santana?”
“I think about how scared I was, when I was that age, when I thought that telling my family I liked girls was going to mean getting kicked out of the house… and then I think about what it must be like for the kids who got sent to that fucking hellhole—it’s torture. And most of it is legal. And that fucking kills me.” She pushed away from the table abruptly and left the kitchen. He heard her heels clicking down the hall, heard the bathroom door close behind her.
Blaine closed his eyes and put his head in his hands, burning for Kurt on a cellular level, swallowing over and over with his throat perfectly dry, waiting for the pain to be bearable again.
He was still waiting when his cell buzzed. Tina. “Hey,” he said, then cleared his throat so he could do more than croak. “Sorry, I was just—”
“Blaine, listen—” She sounded winded, out of breath. “I was going through the backlog of e-mail coming into my website, and I found one—from a gmail address that’s just a string of numbers, but the word ‘Muse’ is in the middle of it; it came in the day after the first video went up. There’s nothing in it, nothing in the message at all—but there’s attachments. A ton of them, all relating to the Home. Blaine, I think… it’s got to be from Kurt.”
A reply message sent to the e-mail came back as ‘undeliverable’, and the ISP traced back to a computer in a public library in Los Angeles. But they had the documents.
Tina put them up the next day. The day after that, Bryant stopped granting interviews, and an official investigation into the Home was announced by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The day after that, Bryant disappeared. That night he was caught in the international terminal at LAX using a passport that didn’t match his legal name, boarding a flight for Hong Kong with a connection to Brunei.
Bryant no longer looked composed. Several people with cellphones had caught his scuffle with Security, and there were blurry versions of it all over the news and the internet. Santana watched every single one of them she could find over and over and over, she spliced them together in a loop and watched it on her laptop, smiling fondly and occasionally giggling. She changed her laptop wallpaper to Bryant’s mugshot, his combover awry, his face drawn and shocked and haggard.
The investigation quickly expanded to include the Ohio Department of Youth Services. Santana yelled at the television in triumphant, rapid-fire Spanish for thirty seconds, then told everyone to shut up so she could hear what was going on.
Apparently it was Bryant’s arrest that prompted Elizabeth Hummel to finally grant an interview. She called Bryant a ‘brave and righteous soldier of God’, and mourned that such a good man and his good works should be scapegoated and vilified by the liberal media.
“But what about your son? Do you know where he is?”
“No, I don’t, but I pray for him every day. I pray that he finds his way home. I pray that Dr. Bryant will return soon to the work, and the children, that need him so desperately—including Kurt.” She shook her head. “I love my son. I love him with all my heart. I just hate the demon that has his precious soul in its grip.”
Blaine rubbed his arms. His skin was puckered, crawling, and he had to rub hard before they felt normal again. On the screen the interview was still going on, Katie Couric now leaning forward, pressing gently, her voice calm but insistent.
“But what if your son isn’t possessed by demons? What if he’s just… gay?”
The resulting slap was the last second of footage—the cameraman had been obliged to intervene.
“That’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Santana said, her eyes wide.
Blaine blinked at her. “You’ve been waiting for someone to slap Katie Couric?”
“Yes. No. Hold on.” She closed her eyes and took a long, slow breath. Then she faced him squarely. “I have an idea. It’s… kind of crazy.”
All the hair on his neck stood up. “Tell me.”
The strategy session that night went on until almost sunrise. After everyone was gone Blaine went up to the loft in the cool, grey light, sat and stared at the still-untouched Artist and Model III while the room slowly warmed and brightened. The crest of a wave, the hope in him, Kurt’s face and his own on the canvas, almost-touching, dark and light swirled together like feathery wings clasping.
Santana had to go out of town for what she called ‘Operation Hail-Mary’, so Blaine had his first meeting with SFPDs finest without the benefit of his lawyer present.
“Detective David Martinez, San Francisco Police Department.” The man at his door was around his age, so handsome he looked like Hollywood’s idea of a plainclothes cop, all polished, perfect teeth and coiffed hair—all he needed was a crotchety-but-lovable older partner played by Morgan Freeman. “I was wondering if I could come in, maybe ask you a few questions?”
Blaine made some split-second calculations. “It’s a beautiful morning—how about I bring some coffee out here, and we can talk?”
A flash of dark eyes, a quirk of the corner of his mouth—so the man was pretty, but not stupid. “That’s just fine, Mr. Anderson.”
“The thing is—wow, okay, you make good coffee, thanks—there’s all this stuff going on, and it all started with this Kurt Hummel kid, and he’s… nowhere to be found.”
“I had noticed that,” Blaine admitted dryly.
Detective Martinez tilted his head at the house. “He lived here? With you?”
“Is he still here?”
“Do you know where he is?”
“Do you have some idea of where he might be?”
“Did you two have a fight?”
“Did you have a sexual relationship?”
“Mr. Anderson.” Martinez nodded at a black and white unit parked across the street. “That car parked over there? That’s for you. There’s a kid missing, a kid you were living with. A kid you apparently painted a bunch of pictures of, and may or may not have been sleeping with. You’re a wealthy man, no problem for you slipping away, if you wanted to go. So those guys, in the car over there? They’re just going to… keep an eye out. For now.”
“I didn’t hurt him,” Blaine said, reflex, automatic. He bit his lip, but it didn’t help. “I would never hurt him.”
The eyes on him were flat, level, intense. “Listen, Mr. Anderson—”
“Blaine. If you’re going to be openly tailing me, I think we can drop the formalities.”
“Okay. Blaine.” Martinez looked across the street at the car, silent for a long moment, then turned back. When he spoke again, his voice was lower, softer. “Look. I have a son. He’s sixteen.”
Blaine’s stomach dropped a little. “Oh.”
“He’s a great kid, his name’s Jesse.” Martinez sipped his coffee. “He’s gay.”
“The thought of him… ending up in a place like that, the thought of someone doing to him what that doctor did to those kids—it makes me sick.” Dark eyes, straight at him. “You’re trying to find him—Kurt. Aren’t you?”
A nod. “That’s why I don’t think you killed him.” Martinez shrugged. “Doesn’t matter what I think, though—I just need to find him.” He handed Blaine his empty cup, and got to his feet, brushing his pants off. “I’ll leave you my card. I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if he gets in touch with you.”
Considering that he didn’t get dragged off and jailed, he figured it was a win.
He worked with Quinn on the exhibit details: the catalogue, the space plan, the artist’s statement (hard), exhibition statements (easy), website, price list. He got the finished paintings ready for hanging, then stared at his abandoned Artist and Model III for a long, long time before he finally took it down off the easel, leaning it carefully, face-in, against the wall.
He didn’t want to look at it any more. Not until this was all over, one way or another.
Given everything that had been in the news, interest in the exhibition launch was intense, even among serious art patrons. Quinn shook her head over the RSVP list for the initial, private launch—the one that was invitation-only for collectors. “This… is crazy. I have five other clients who are established painters, and none of them have ever gotten this sort of crowd.” She shook her head, frowning, flipping pages. “Tate Modern is on this list, Blaine. MoMA is on this list. Art critics—who matter. People with collections better than what most museums have—”
“Don’t panic, Quinn,” he told her, taking the list out of her hand and tossing it on the table. He smiled. “Chances are most of them are only coming for the fun of excoriating me for my pretensions, anyway.”
It was meant as a mood-lightener, but Quinn went pale and her eyelids drooped, and Blaine sat her down and got her some wine and told her everything was going to be absolutely awesome.
It was all over the news, trumped only on the day the charges against Bryant were announced (various counts of fraud, conspiracy, misuse of public funds, assault, reckless child endangerment, and patient endangerment). The exhibit catalogue had included detail shots from most of the paintings, and full shots of two of them. For Blaine, seeing those captures on his television screen was a shock, simultaneously thrilling and terrifying: pieces of his art, his heart, writ large. And, of course, Kurt—Kurt framed in a whole new context, haunting and gorgeous and eerie even when he was being delivered digitally, an incandescent ghost glowing through the plasma.
Santana had her elegantly-booted feet crossed at the ankle and propped on the kitchen table, leaning back in her chair while she munched out of a giant bowl in her lap. On the screen, two women coming through two different satellite feeds were bellowing at each other, while in the middle Ed Schultz looked kind of afraid to interrupt.
“Battle of the network lesbians,” Santana said with her mouth full. “A sex-positive one versus an idiot, arguing about whether or not you’re a child molester.” She held out the bowl. “Popcorn?”
With the exhibit statements on the website he’d put up some film clips, and to his surprise and pleasure those started showing up on the news as well: Kurt accompanying himself on the piano, dancing in the kitchen, teasing Blaine ruthlessly and laughing—beautiful, vital and happy.
“Obviously a very talented young man,” one newscaster said, “with a bright future ahead of him. Or, we can only hope so.”
Soon that was everywhere too: conjecture, or breathless concern, or barely-not-couched-in-tragic-terms solemn speculation. He received an interview request from Nancy Grace, and wondered for a moment how she’d respond to a step-by-step description of the makeover Kurt wanted to give her.
With all that going on, it wasn’t exactly shocking when Detective Martinez came back.
“Hi, Blaine,” he said when Blaine opened the door. “I thought maybe we could have another little chat. Maybe indoors, this time?”
Blaine rolled his eyes. “Hold on—I’ll ask my mom—” That was as far as he got before Santana moved him aside, stepped out onto the stoop and then closed the door behind her, shutting him out of it.
“Okay,” Blaine said to the closed door, scratching his jaw. “I’ll just… stay in here, then.”
But only until he saw Detective Martinez walking away, and Santana coming back. Then he opened the door. “Detective Martinez?”
“Do not talk to him—”
“I just want to ask him one question.” Martinez turned around. “If you saw Kurt—if he just came walking up the sidewalk here—would you take him? Knowing who would get him—legally, who would get him— and what she would do, what she wants to do to him? Would you take him? Could you do that?”
Martinez blinked. A muscle in his cheek jumped. “Maybe it’s best if he doesn’t show up here right now.”
Blaine nodded, his fists clenched, his stomach cold and low and sick. “I guess so.”
The only interview he granted was to a young reporter from the local news affiliate. “I’m glad to be doing this show. And of course I’m glad that so many people want to see it—but the one who should really be there is Kurt. These paintings celebrate him, who he is, the person that he’s become. He’s the strongest, bravest person I know. I hope that comes across in the work, and I hope he gets to see it.”
The girl interviewing him didn’t look much older than Kurt was. “Any regrets about your career? The movies? The books?”
He smiled. “I’m doing what I want to do. Kurt made that possible for me.”
She tilted her head, squinting. He wondered if she’d picked up that technique from Katie Couric. “Did you love him?”
“I do love him.” Still. He still couldn’t say it without his throat squeezing up on him. “He’s the love of my life.”
“You have to go, Blaine! You’re the artist, it’s your work, you need to—”
“I went down to the place on the corner for groceries this morning,” Blaine said evenly. “And Mutt and Jeff out there were with me, every step of the way. I got them each a cruller. But I really don’t think this particular event would be improved by the company of the artist and his police escort, do you?”
“Oh fuck,” Quinn said, squeezing her temples. “No, of course not.”
“I’ll go to the public launch,” he said, smoothing her Dior dress over her shoulders. “That’ll be a madhouse, it won’t matter so much.” He kissed her on the forehead—he had to get up on his toes to do it, her Jimmy Choo pumps were deeply stylish and terrifyingly high. “You look amazing. You are amazing. You’ve been so incredibly amazing, through this whole thing—”
“Billable hours, Blaine,” she said bitterly, twisting a knuckle into his bicep, sniffing a little and blinking with her head tilted back, so her makeup didn’t smudge. “You’re paying for my dream six-month vacation in Majorca.”
“Just make sure I write you a check before they bust me.”
“Oh shut up. I’m leaving.”
Tina looked spectacular in Alexander McQueen—nearly piratical, very dramatic. “You’re going?”
“Yeah, I…” She stopped, brushing her hair back on one side. “There might be some people there it would be good for me to talk to.” She shrugged. “I decided that I want my next piece to be about places like Lost Lambs. Not a short, a full-length doc.”
He reached out for her hand. “Tina, that’s… perfect, it’s perfect for you.”
She nodded. “But it’s risky, and research-heavy, and I’ll need funding—”
“I’ll fund it.”
She squeezed his hand. “I know you would. But there are other people who might want to—people who don’t have staggering lawyer and agent-slash-manager bills to pay.” She kissed his cheek. “I promise I’ll deal you in, okay?”
“Okay.” He wrapped her up. Her hair smelled like jasmine. “I promise I’ll let you live on my couch as long as you want.”
With no current emergencies underway, Santana packed up her notes and headed home for the day. “I should probably remind my wife what I look like.”
That caught him. He sat down at the table and looked at her. “I didn’t know you were married.”
She nodded. “Tied the knot in June 2008, before the Mormons gave us all a collective ass-fucking with no reacharound.”
She turned her laptop towards him, pulling up a picture of a stunning blonde with a happy smile, one arm around a giant, grumpy-looking cat and the other wielding… an angry-looking puppet. “That’s Brittany. That’s my girl. Champion of children’s television programming—she’s a genius.”
“The puppet, um. It kind of looks like…”
“She based it on me, that’s why. Apparently four-year-olds think angry feminist lawyer puppets are the shit.”
He was exhausted and overwrought and he could not stop laughing. Every time he started to get it under control, one glance at the cat or the blonde or the puppet would set him off again. He felt kind of bad about it, but Santana was smiling at him—not a lawyer-smile. A friend-smile. He was still wheezing a little when she flipped her laptop shut and smacked him on the shoulder. “Good night, short stack. I hope nobody upchucks their wine on your pervy pictures.”
Alone. Quiet. The house empty—achingly so, the paintings gone from upstairs; the paintings gone forever. Blaine sat at the kitchen table until he couldn’t anymore, then went upstairs to Kurt’s room.
It felt like a shell, like a set, like a stage after the actors had taken their final bows and moved on. Lying on Kurt’s bed felt like trespassing, and it was all too easy for all the details and all of the questions to race through his mind: everything that could go wrong, if everything didn’t go just right.
He didn’t cry. He hadn’t cried since he’d found Kurt’s journal. Not since he decided to act, not since he started the whole ball rolling.
With supreme irony, he realized what he wanted to do most right now was pray.
Instead, he got up off Kurt’s bed, and went back downstairs to make himself a drink.
The exhibition website e-mail was dreary and predictable and monotonous, and he hoped that wading through it might actually let him sleep for the first time in three days.
…you fucking hellbound child molesting faggot i hope you
…You don’t know me but I’m the biggest fan of Fabulous Monsters and I just wanted to know when the next book
…was his ass tight when you fucked him? Did he call you Daddy?
…very disappointed, this is pornography. Please go back to the books, my children
…love the books and movies, and the art is great. I have a script I think you’d go nuts for
…your cock and balls should be cut off and fed to dogs
…can’t you please think of the children?
…It comes across, Blaine. And I’ll get to see it. At least one time.
He sat bolt upright, feeling like electricity was running through him, like his hair must be standing on end.
He hit ‘reply’, then ‘send’ without even adding anything, because he was an idiot and because his hands were shaking.
Immediate bounce: undeliverable.
He put his head down on his folded hands, and breathed.
He was still sitting there, staring at the message, when Quinn came in. She didn’t bother turning the lights on. She closed the door, locked it, then leaned back against it and kicked her shoes off, sighing.
“I kind of hate you a little right now.”
Blaine got up from the table. “That bad?”
Her head rolled toward him, and he realized she was drunk. “It was insane.” She walked towards him, taking her earrings out, barefooted and girlish in her full-skirted dress. “Everything went, Blaine. Everything.”
He blinked. “Everything… sold? All of it?”
“To some extremely prestigious institutions and individuals,” she drawled, enunciating with drunken deliberation. “Congratulations. You’ve gone from ‘that guy who got canned by Disney’ to ‘the most exciting and bold representational artist of this generation’ in one goddamn night, and for the rest of your life if you so much as scribble on a cocktail napkin, that cocktail napkin will create a fucking bidding war.”
She was right there. She curled into him and he put his arms around her, moving with her when she rocked a little, dancing with him. “I can’t believe you pulled it off. I can’t believe it, Blaine. I thought… oh, you know what I thought.”
“I… yeah. I know. I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Ha. You should be. I’ve been a wreck.”
He’d held on to it as long as he could. “Kurt sent an e-mail to the exhibit website.”
She pulled back immediately. “What?”
“He’ll be at the public launch. Tomorrow.” Just saying it made him dizzy, made his heart clutch up in his chest. “He said he’d be there.”
“Oh my God—are we ready? We need to—”
“Shh,” he told her, pulling her back in. “We’re ready.” He swallowed. “We’re as ready as we can be on our end. Everything else is… well, all we can do is try.”
She blinked up at him, her eyes wide. “Tomorrow?”
“Listen to me.” Santana’s hands were heavy on his shoulders. “I’m going to be really, really honest with you. If you mess this up, I won’t wait for the cops to throw down—I will insert my foot in your ass and wear you like a bowtie-covered boot.”
Blaine blinked. “Me? But I’m—”
“You’re crazy, you’re a crazyman, you’re a crazy artist and you’re crazy about that boy. But for this to work, you have to be calm, you have to be steady, you have to keep it under control. Can you do that?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Maybe I should ask Quinn for a Valium.”
She patted his arms, smiling with lovely, gentle menace. “I’ll shoot you full of horse tranquilizers if that’s what it takes, Blaine.”
No Valium, but her words stayed with him, and despite everything he realized they probably weren’t misapplied, because the street outside the exhibit venue was packed, wall-to-wall people all crowding around the ropes that ran to the street from either side of the doors—a huge crowd, like no art launch he’d ever seen before. So many people, and one of them had to be Kurt, and yes, he started scanning the moment he got out of the car. A yell, screams, and he thought Kurt must have been spotted—but no, the yell was for him, apparently, and he smiled and waved and wondered how fucking weird his life was going to get.
He’d chartered a car and driver for the evening. He handed Santana, Tina and Quinn out, then closed the door and tried to not be really super obvious about parsing the crowd. Santana slipped her arm through his, smiling, and leaned towards his ear. “Walk slowly. Mutt and Jeff are pulling up right now. Do not panic.”
“Not panicking.” The people crowding the ropes were young, mostly; girls and boys and quite a few who looked like they could be either, both or neither—so many young, excited faces, pens and autograph books extended, quite a few sketchbooks, too. He saw a handmade t-shirt in the crowd that said I Am Kurt Hummel, then another, and—oh, God, there were a bunch of them, all through the crowd, and despite the insanity and the pressure he had to laugh when he realized that his police escort was scrutinizing each one of them in turn.
Santana steered him over to the ropes, where a man he recognized as one of the art editors for the San Francisco Chronicle was waving them down. “Make it quick,” she murmured in his ear.
“So, Blaine,” the guy yelled. “By the looks of things here today, it seems that once again you’ve somehow tapped into a cultural zeitgeist, this time fusing fine art with pop culture. Is that what you set out to do?”
“Um, no,” Blaine said, because honestly. “I didn’t even know I’d done that until, uh, just now. I just… made the art I wanted to make. The art I wanted to see in the world. About a person who inspires me.”
“He seems to be an inspiration to many,” the guy said dryly. “But the politics that inform your work, here, this revolution of sexual and gender expression is just—”
Santana tugged on his arm. “Look,” Blaine said, grabbing pens and signing books as fast as he could. “Call me, and we’ll set up an interview, okay? I need to keep moving.”
He was on the other side of the line, signing, signing, smiling at all the happy, young faces, when a voice a little further down made him clamp down on the Sharpie in his hand so hard he thought it might snap in half. “Ms. Cohen-Chang? Ms. Cohen-Chang—over here—”
One glimpse, one brief, head-up-head-down glance, and he had to bite the inside of his cheek. Long, wavy, blonde hair, bangs, sunglasses and a scarf—that was all he’d gotten, but if his police escort was looking for the boy who was in all the paintings and all over the television coverage, they were shit out of luck. “Ms. Cohen-Chang, I came to your premiere, and we talked—hi, yes—I’m so glad you remember me, can I come in with you? Can I?”
Tina, bless her, seemed as calm and composed as ever as she helped Kurt duck under the ropes, embracing him fondly. “She’s with me,” she said to the guy at the door, and then they disappeared.
He floated through the rest of the line. Signing. Smiling. A young person of indeterminate gender, feathers and beads and bracelets and visible scars on their arms, was the last person he signed for. “Thank you,” Blaine said. “Thank you for being here today.”
And then Santana tugged his arm again, and they were in.
“This is crazy,” Quinn said in his ear, handing him a glass. “This is an art launch, not a Hollywood premiere—there are celebrities all over the place. For God’s sake, Robert DeNiro is here—”
“Steady, girl,” he said, clinking plastic glasses with her. “You can tell your mom about it when it’s all over—”
“Oh, I’m going to,” Quinn murmured, draining her glass in one quick swallow. “I’m going to have rub-it-in rights over this for years—if we don’t all end up in the slammer, that is.”
Kurt was still with Tina, moving calmly from one painting to the next. Black skinny jeans, black Chucks. A black bodysuit with a red, cropped bolero over it, hiding the lack of breasts. A red and black cotton scarf looped twice around the neck. Cotton-candy lipgloss and all that blonde hair and the red-framed sunglasses—heart-shaped, smoky grey-to-pink lenses and oh, Kurt, really, the Lolita glasses were what was killing him, that little touch, because it was so Kurt. Because it was really, really him.
He moved away quickly, taking his police detail with him, so neither he—nor they—could see when Tina and Kurt slipped out of the room.
Quinn was the next to go. One moment she was there, effervescent and polished and wonderful, making introductions and talking about the show and discreetly herding people to him or away from him, depending, and the next minute she was gone. He moved to the crowd around the bar to compensate, accepted congratulations and champagne, and exerted himself to be social and gracious and mellowly happy. He thought he maybe did a slightly better job than a reanimated corpse would have, but he wasn’t sure.
“I just got a text from Tina,” Santana said in his ear, one hand on his shoulder. “They’re all set. Now look at your watch.” He did. “Make your move in exactly five minutes. No more, no less. Don’t panic, and don’t rush. I’m out.”
He didn’t watch her go. The next part was one of those things that they’d decided to leave loose, as there were too many variables to calculate, and the best decision would be made on the fly.
The problem was, it was his on-the-fly decision. He kind of wished that part had occurred to him before just now. Quinn or Santana or Tina winging it? No problem—they were all experts. But he didn’t feel quite like an expert. He felt more like a nervous, fumbling dork.
Mutt and Jeff. He called them that for expediency’s sake, although they changed all the time, and he was never entirely sure whether the two following him around or watching his house from across the street were ones he’d met before or whether they were new to the detail, because all of them seemed so similar: frowning and serious and manly and entirely coplike.
Which… of course, was what he’d been waiting for his brain to point out to him. He glanced at his watch. He had one minute left. Then he turned to Mutt and Jeff. “Hey—you guys want to meet Robert DeNiro?”
Robert ‘Call me Bobby’ DeNiro turned out to be an incredibly nice man, and very gracious about being fanboyed over in a serious and manly and coplike way. “I’m gonna hit the bathroom,” Blaine told Jeff, slapping him on the shoulder, and Jeff just nodded and went back to describing his favorite scene in Goodfellas.
Mike was in the bathroom, the screen was off the high, small window, and Blaine’s stomach was doing cartwheels. “You ready?” Mike asked him once the door was closed. “We need to move fast.”
They moved fast. Mike boosted him up and halfway through, and on the other side was the alley and an open, running catering van and Santana, in jeans and a t-shirt and a baseball cap. “Okay, fugitive from justice—here we go.” He half-climbed and half-fell into the alley, a little scraped and banged up, but just fine.
Mike’s face popped up in the window. “See you guys up there. Be safe,” he said, and then he was gone. Blaine got in the van and got the door shut, sitting on the floor between two empty industrial racks. Quinn was driving, ponytailed and baseball-capped, and he noticed vaguely beyond the thunder of his heart that it was a really good look on her.
Santana pitched a backpack at him from the passenger seat. “Suit up.”
Santana had packed him a NASCAR t-shirt and a ‘World’s Best Dad’ baseball cap. “Oh, you suck so bad.”
Her laughter pealed out, high and happy and free, and he went over onto his side when Quinn took the corner from the alley into the street, and then they were off.
They swapped vehicles in the Civic Center garage, backing in and parking close to the waiting van so that when both side doors slid back they could make the transfer without parading around in front of the surveillance cameras. Tina was there when he slid the door open, waving him in and towards the back seat—which was where Kurt was, the wig gone, wearing just the jeans and a plain white t-shirt, his wet hair combed straight back and his face rosy from scrubbing. “Blaine—”
He didn’t remember falling onto the seat. He remembered Kurt’s cool, still-damp face in his hands, and two furious, devouring kisses before he started to cry. Kurt held him and shushed him and kissed him back, then gave up on the shushing and just held him. Blaine didn’t sob, but he was shaking, crying softly and he couldn’t stop, pain draining from him like a dam had broken somewhere that had been holding everything back.
“Is he okay?” he heard Santana ask.
“He’s fine,” Kurt said, his voice hoarse and broken-sounding, and then there were more kisses, soft and sorry kisses, dropping one by one on his mouth until he could breathe again.
When he pulled back (not letting go, he honestly didn’t know if he’d ever be able to let go again), Kurt looked at him, his eyes wide and blue and full of light. “Blaine. You look… terrible.” His eyes darted up to the hat. “And completely ridiculous.”
“I know.” He sniffed. “Will you marry me?”
Kurt took the packet of tissues that Quinn was waving at them from the seat ahead, pulled some out, and pressed them into Blaine’s palm before he handed the packet back. “Yes—but not while you’re wearing that hat. It would be weird.”
Blaine grinned. His stupid eyes were leaking again. “Okay.”
“Okay-okay-okay,” Kurt said, holding up his hands. “Wait, I need to… I need to go over that all again, because about half of it was in legalese, and the other half was in yelling.”
“Sorry,” Blaine said. “I’ve just… been waiting a long time to tell you all this.”
Kurt nudged Blaine’s knee with his own. “I know. Okay, so—” he ticked off a point on his fingers. “The first thing was, Ohio Juvenile Justice dropped the charges, right?”
“Yeah—they’re kind of scrambling with the whole corruption scandal thing, so Santana finally got them to listen to reason—”
“More like ‘fear’,” Santana said from the shotgun seat, where she was filing her nails. “For some reason, the threat of going public with proof of trumped-up charges against a gay teen didn’t seem to appeal to them right now.”
“Okay,” Kurt said. “Thank you.”
“De nada,” Santana said, blowing on her nails. “It was my pleasure.”
“It really was,” Quinn drawled. “I was there when she made the call—her eyes got big and she was breathing funny when she hung up.”
“Vengeance gets me hot,” Santana said, shrugging.
Kurt’s mouth twisted. “Okay. So, now we get to the part I actually knew about—Ohio has no emancipation law for minors.”
“Right,” Blaine said.
“Which is crazy,” Tina mumbled, downshifting. “And sucks.”
“And the other part I knew about,” Kurt said, nodding, “the only way around custody is through either marriage or enlistment.”
“Please don’t join the Army,” Blaine said.
“I’ve been keeping that particular option in reserve,” Kurt said dryly. “Which brings us to…”
Kurt was looking at him. “Where same-sex marriage is legal.”
“For now,” Santana said darkly.
“But not…” Kurt bit his lip. “Not for minors, not unless you have a—what is it?”
“Special circumstances exemption.” Blaine said. He’d called it a ‘special dispensation’ in strategy sessions until Santana had thrown a pen at him.
“From a Judge, right?”
“A Superior Court Justice,” Santana said.
“And you found one? Who’ll do it?”
“I found one who’ll listen,” Santana replied, half-bitterly. “And I had a hell of a time finding even that. But yeah, I found someone who’ll at least hear us out.”
“The ‘special circumstances’ can take into consideration the mental and emotional state of the parent,” Tina added, looking at Kurt in the rear-view mirror.
“Oh.” He shook his head. Took a breath. “So, we’re going to Washington.” He looked at Blaine. His face was flushed. “And you… you were serious. You meant it.”
“I meant it.” Blaine swallowed. “I would have meant it even without all this… other stuff.”
Kurt looked down, his lips pressed together.
“It’s a lot to take in, I know. And… no pressure, Kurt, okay? If you don’t—really, we don’t have to, there are other options—”
“Blaine.” Kurt’s voice was soft. “Stop.”
Kurt reached over and took his hand, then laced their fingers together. He turned his head away, looking out through the window, leaning back in the seat.
Blaine squeezed his hand, and watched Kurt, watching the miles pass by.
Near dawn, cold and foggy, the concrete jungle of a gas station, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Blaine had been awake so long that everything looked grainy, hyper-real. Santana, Quinn and Tina were all inside the mini-mart, getting coffee. Kurt was leaning against the cinderblock wall at one side of the building, his arms wrapped around himself. Something was wrong.
“Talk to me.” It felt strange, saying that to Kurt. He’d wanted to, and held himself back, so many times—but there was no need for secrets; not now, not any more. “Please.”
Kurt shook his head, staring at the ground. He didn’t say anything for a long, long time, and when he spoke, his voice was so low it was hard to hear. “I had to let you go, Blaine.”
“I had to let go of you. When I read—when I believed that letter.”
“I thought it might kill me to do it, but I had to. I… it was the only way I could go on. And I couldn’t go back.” He looked at Blaine, his face carefully set. “It was like cutting myself—cutting deep, so deep, trying to carve you out.” He shivered. “And then, later, I hoped—as soon as I saw the news, as soon as I realized it must not be true, I hoped—but I don’t think I really believed. I don’t…”
He went—didn’t think about it, he just went, and slipped his arms around Kurt, shaking. “Please. What can I do? How can I—”
“Just—I just need some time, Blaine. Just a little time. To undo… everything I had to do.”
“We can wait,” Blaine said, his voice hoarse and scratchy. “We don’t have to go to Seattle, we can go anywhere—”
Kurt’s hands curled into his shoulders. “You’re already backing out of our engagement?” His eyes were overbright, his voice sad but softly teasing. He pulled Blaine closer, slipping arms around his neck. “No, Blaine. I love you. So much. I do. And I want… this is what I want. You’re what I want—I know that, even if all this seems like some kind of crazy dream.”
“I don’t want to push you, Kurt. I never want to do that.”
Grey dawn and exhaustion thrumming in his muscles but—perfect kiss. Warm and home for him, always home. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Blaine, but I’m pretty spectacularly resistant to being pushed.” Another kiss. “So stop worrying, and just… let me catch up.” He smiled, just a little. “In the meantime, marry me—if you can.”
Santana, Quinn and Tina came out of the store, talking quietly, heading for the van. Blaine held out his hand. Kurt took it, and they walked over together.
“Okay,” Quinn said, “who’s got next shift? I can—”
“I’ll take it,” Blaine said.
“No you won’t,” Santana said. “First of all, nobody who is technically wanted by the cops is allowed to drive. Second, you haven’t slept in days, and I like my legs too much to have them mangled when you pass out and go off the road.”
Quinn drove, and Kurt slid all the way over to the end of the bench seat in the back, patting his lap. “No wonder you look like death warmed over, Blaine—come here. Lie down.”
He hesitated, debated, and then went, lying face-up with his head pillowed on Kurt’s lap. “Are you sure?”
“What, that you look like hell, or that you need to sleep? Both, yes.” Kurt’s hand tugged the cap off his head, then smoothed through his hair. “Sleep, Blaine. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.
It was the stupidest thing ever, but his eyes welled up again. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I’m just tired.”
Kurt’s hand settled on his chest, and Blaine covered it with both of his own. “Go to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up; I promise.”
Blaine closed his stinging eyes, and let himself sink.
Engine hum. Kurt, breathing. He was so tired, now that he’d given in and slept a little…
The hum guided him back down. He squeezed Kurt’s hand as he went.
Later: “Santana?” Kurt. Quietly.
A pause. “Is this going to work?
Blaine didn’t open his eyes. Santana’s voice was low. “You mean, legally?”
“Well, either it’s going to work, or it’s going to make everything into the kind of legal boondoggle—or, ‘clusterfuck’, in technical lawyer-language—that’ll draw out the whole process for years.” Under Blaine’s cheek, Kurt’s stomach muscles tightened. “But listen, Kurt—the one thing I can tell you for sure—they won’t get you again, okay? They won’t get you again.” He’d never heard her voice so soft. He hadn’t known her voice could be that soft. “I’m not kidding. This is plan A. If it doesn’t work or if it’s not what you want we also have plans B, C, and D—although I hope we don’t have to use plan D, because it involves time travel—my wife came up with that one; she’s an out-of-the-box thinker.”
“Oh.” A pause. “It’s what… I want this. If it can work.”
“I’m going to give it my best shot, small-world.”
“Sorry, you just look like you should be on strings, singing about how it’s a world of laughter and tears and shit.”
“Oh my God.”
They were facing the front of the court, staring at the bench, empty except for the nameplate: Judge Shannon Beiste. Santana was shuffling papers, over and over. “She has a reputation for being tough, but fair. And a little eccentric. But she’s not an activist judge—so they can’t challenge us on that, and most of all, she’s never been overturned. Not once. Blaine, comb your damn hair.”
Blaine blinked. “Santana, are you nervous?”
“Shut up. Of course I’m nervous. Fix your hair, say ‘Your Honor’, and don’t be a fucking twerp or I will end you.”
Kurt was staring—at the floor, at his shoes, into the abyss—his lips pressed tight together. Blaine put an arm around his shoulders, leaning close, whispering. “Do you need more time? To think about this, I mean?”
Kurt looked up. “No, I don’t need more time, Blaine.” He took Blaine’s hand. “I don’t want to run any more. I don’t want to hide any more. I want to be with you. I’m ready.”
Those eyes—calm now, meeting his levelly. “Are you sure?”
Blaine squeezed Kurt’s hand, and kissed him on the cheek. He didn’t see the Judge when she entered the room behind them—he didn’t even know she was there until she ruffled his hair on her way by. When she turned to face them, she laughed.
“Sorry, fella—you were so tiny, I thought you had to be the little squirt.” She nodded at Kurt amenably. “Hey, little squirt.”
“Hey… Your Honor.”
She nodded at the side door to the room. “How’s about you and me head back to chambers for a bit, and have ourselves a talk?” Blaine’s face was apparently up to its usual level of subtlety, because she shook her head at him. “Don’t panic, son—you’ll get him back. I’m not going to tuck him in my pocket and use him for a fishing lure.”
Fishing lure? He mouthed at Santana when Judge Beiste moved towards the door. She shook her head at him, scowling.
The oak door closed with a heavy thud behind the two of them. “It’s because he’s kind of shiny,” Santana said irritably.
It was a long wait. A long, long, long wait, and Blaine was judiciously deliberating between settling into a zenlike calm and completely freaking out, when the door swung open again.
Kurt had been crying. Blaine bit his lips, but then he realized that Judge Beiste had too—she was still sniffling. Blaine held out his hand, and Kurt took it. Kurt’s skin was cool and soft. Blaine’s stomach seemed to be doing some kind of extreme gymnastics, and his heart felt like it was up in his throat, allowing him only shallow breaths.
“Okay. Counselor, everyone else, thank you for your patience.” Beiste broke off to blow her nose, loudly enough that it sounded like a small explosion. She cleared her throat. “Ms. Lopez, I have reviewed the evidence you provided me with, and I have spoken with the concerned party. Is there anything you wanted to add to the record at this time?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Okay then. It is the opinion of this court that the specifics in this particular case support the application for a special circumstances exemption, allowing the minor in question to legally marry.” Judge Beiste’s low, downhome voice stayed just the same, but the words were hard to follow—Blaine was still parsing when she tapped her gavel, and he jumped. “The exemption is granted.” Oh. Oh. She turned to Kurt. “Mr. Hummel.”
Kurt squeezed his hand, hard. Blaine squeezed back. “Yes, Your Honor.”
Judge Beiste smiled at him. “If you don’t want to marry the pipsqueak next to you, I’ll take you on myself—I’m divorced and you’re just as cute as a tumblebug in a windstorm.”
Kurt swayed a little on his feet, and his cheeks went pink. “Thank you, Your Honor. But… well, he did ask me first.”
“Always a day late and a dollar value menu short,” she said, shaking her head. “Okay—let’s get on with it. Ms. Lopez, you have the license?”
Santana handed it over with a flourish.
He hadn’t even combed his hair.
That thought kept circling, irritating and astounding him by turns, as everything whipped by at shocking speed. Papers signed, Santana tucking a sheaf of them into her briefcase with an expression that seemed better suited to a lioness standing over a hard-fought kill, Quinn and Tina stepping up next to them—witnesses, of course; they needed two for it to be legal.
It all happened so fast—Quinn had the rings, purchased weeks ago, everything had been planned and prepared for, and he knew it all down to the last detail—but in all the excitement and nervousness of driving into Seattle and going over the plan for the zillionth time he’d forgotten to change, so here he was in a fucking NASCAR t-shirt with his hair looking like a rat’s nest, and he hadn’t shaved in days, and he’d barely slept—
Kurt’s thumb brushed across the back of his hand—Kurt’s hands, holding his, and it caught him, the way their fingers looked laced together, tangled up in each other like they’d never come apart. Kurt right there, his lashes still wet but his eyes absolutely clear, calm and right with him, repeating vows without any pause or stutter or hesitation in his soft, sweet voice.
And then it was over. And Blaine seemed to have lost the ability to move or speak.
Blaine broke through the paralysis and kissed him, gently, but then Kurt made some sound, just one soft, choked-off little noise, and that brought everything crashing down like a wave and then Blaine couldn’t let go, his heart was galloping and Kurt’s mouth was so soft and open and beautiful, and there were cameras flashing from three different directions and he could hear Tina laughing and Kurt was kissing him, kissing him and humming a little into his mouth—
And they had done it.
He’d picked a trendy boutique hotel in the middle of Seattle, because it had a piano bar and a killer honeymoon suite and the kind of décor that he himself hated but he thought Kurt would probably love. But Kurt was quiet when they left the courtroom, quiet on the drive to the hotel, and he only shook his head when Quinn handed them their room keys and asked if they wanted to join the party in the bar—Mike and Brittany were already there.
Kurt was quiet in the elevator, in the hallway, in the room itself. “I’m going to take a shower,” Blaine said, and Kurt just nodded, and went back to staring at the spectacular skyline outside.
Blaine took his time, his movements slowed by exhaustion, and only realized after he’d finished brushing his teeth that he had no clean clothes to put on—he’d brought his kitbag up with him, but left his backpack in the car, so now he had no clothes at all other than his going-on-four-days-straight jeans and, of course, his NASCAR t-shirt—which, no. A towel seemed insufficient for modesty, given that what they really needed to do was talk, so he slipped into one of the robes hanging on the back of the door.
He was ready to listen, ready to hear whatever Kurt needed to say—but Kurt headed for the bathroom as soon as Blaine left it, sliding by him without saying a word, or even looking at him. He heard the shower turn back on.
So there was nothing to do but wait. He walked around the room, got a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and drank it, looked out the window at Seattle’s heavy, grey skies, listened to Kurt in the shower, and then stretched out on the bed.
That might have been a mistake, because the bed was huge and soft, and he was warm and clean, and he needed to talk to Kurt… they needed to talk, it was important, because something was going on and they should talk about it, they needed to…
He didn’t even realize he’d fallen asleep until he started awake. Kurt was there, about three feet away from the bed, scrubbed clean and flushed pink and entirely naked. Blaine almost moaned aloud.
“Kurt…” His head was pounding. He sat up. “I thought… we need to talk.”
Kurt knelt on the bed like he was approaching a frightened animal, slowly closing in, naked and perfect and gilded in the low, romantic light. “We do.”
“I’m… uh. Jesus, Kurt. I don’t… oh, God—” he scrambled a little, slipping on the smooth coverlet of the bed, struggling for space, for distance, for enough of both to make his mouth work right.
Kurt’s hand caught his wrist before he edged away. “You’re my husband, Blaine,” Kurt said softly, and Blaine froze, his arm lax and unresisting when Kurt tugged it toward him, placing it gently on his own chest. “We’ll talk. But for right now, just… be my husband, okay?”
Blaine groaned softly, a hurt, agonized sound. He slid his hand from Kurt’s chest up around the back of his neck and into his wet hair, and fitted the other sweetly into the muscular curve of his waist before yanking him down, crushing them together.
He had Kurt’s ass in his hands, silky-skinned and hot, holding him open and licking, teasing, his own heart fluttering and cramping in his chest every time Kurt gasped or cried out or twitched around his tongue. Kurt’s hips pressed close, then away, then into him again, riding his tongue with slow, torturous deliberation. Blaine went as deep as he could and Kurt’s breath hitched—once, then again, then rhythmically, over and over.
“I missed you, Blaine.” Broken, wrecked voice, so soft and so lost, and Blaine pulled back—or tried to, but Kurt had his hair, keeping him where he was. “No—don’t stop, okay? Just… please.”
Blaine didn’t stop, but he slowed. “I missed you so much,” Kurt said, and Blaine could hear him crying. “I dreamed… every time I slept, I dreamed about you, and I dreamed about you fucking me and I’d wake up with everything hard and rubbing the sheets—and then you weren’t there and it wasn’t real and my heart would rip in half and it hurt, it hurt, Blaine—”
“Kurt—” He couldn’t, he just couldn’t, any more. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—”
“Be with me,” Kurt pulling him, almost clawing him, dragging him up. His words came short of breath and staccato, between hitching gasps. “I need you, need to feel you—right now, please—”
He went as slowly as he could, but his hands were shaking and Kurt was frantic and still crying and there was lube everywhere and Kurt’s heels dug hard into the muscles of his ass, pulling him down and in, hips lifting up and swiveling and taking him, too hard and too fast. “Fuck, Kurt—”
“Please,” Kurt said, breathless, his eyes wet and shining. “Please don’t let go.”
“Okay, okay I won’t, I’m here, it’s okay.” Impossible to tell if it was too much, if Kurt was hurting when he was crying, impossible to read the cues of his body when Kurt was just clinging to him like he would drown if he let go, pulling for more but half-fighting him, fists in his hair.
“I was so mad at you, Blaine.” Raw, shaking voice, churning hips and flexing muscles, furious sobs and Blaine could barely breathe.
“…so mad at you, for not being there, for not trusting me, for… oh. Oh. Blaine—” Kurt’s fingers like iron sinking into his shoulders, ruthless squeeze of thighs around his waist that made his ribs ache. “…don’t stop.”
“I won’t, okay, Kurt—” Kurt was still crying, still locked into him, still moving and his hands taking flight like birds, leaving Blaine’s shoulders and touching his face, cupping it, smooth, damp palms skidding over his cheeks. Blaine didn’t stop. He fucked Kurt harder, held him as close and tight as possible and pushed, making him take it. He kissed Kurt’s open mouth and caught the next sob, the next moan on the tip of his tongue, kissed Kurt while he came and came apart, crying so hard that the whole bed shook.
Blaine slowed, slowed, and all but stopped, holding there and rocking them together tenderly, just barely, soaked with sweat and panting hard and shivering a little. Kurt’s sobs smoothed out to quiet, gentle gasps, and Kurt wasn’t crying, wasn’t fighting him any more—he was just… there, right with him, holding on, his eyes wet and his face wet, but right there with him.
“I missed you,” Kurt whispered.
“I missed you too.”
“Stay with me.”
Blaine moved and Kurt unknotted, stretching while Blaine kissed him soft and deep, slow strokes of his tongue into Kurt’s salt-silky, wet mouth, echoing his strokes into Kurt’s body. Kurt moaned and moved with him, and everything slewed into sensual and erotic overload with frightening speed, leaving Blaine gasping, his hips twisting and gently bucking, out of his control. “S—sorry…”
“No,” Kurt told him, pressing back into the pillows and spreading wider for him, so wet and open. “That’s… you feel so good, Blaine.” One hand left Blaine’s face, skidding through the sweat and come on his own chest and stomach and on down, stroking himself—that hard, shiny, gorgeous cock caught in his elegant fist, and Blaine couldn’t look away, couldn’t stop groaning.
Heavy, deep breaths. Half-lidded, hazy eyes. “You don’t have to wait for me, Blaine.” A twist of the wrist, a shudder. “You… you can just come.”
“Not… not yet… you—” but his hips were speeding up, faster and harder and God help him he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t.
“A martyr and a gentleman,” was what he thought Kurt whispered, but it was hard to tell because Kurt was stroking faster, beautiful eyes closing and his open mouth panting and rocking between Blaine’s cock and his own hand, the faint line he got between his brows when he was about to come and Blaine was dying, just fucking dying from holding back so long, nerves screaming at him and his mutinous body fucking Kurt’s tight, sweet ass so hard the bed rattled.
“Blaine—” Kurt choked off the word and moaned, then again, his hand a blur and his hips bucking and then white, hot streaks on Blaine’s stomach and his own, and Blaine made some low, uncontrollable animal noise and came, throbbing inside the hot, slick, rhythmic squeeze around him, furious pounding of his heartbeat in his ears and everything gone except Kurt, coming with him, stretched out under him and coming hard, arching and moaning and so, so, so good.
Blaine’s arms gave out with no warning, and Kurt laughed breathlessly when Blaine landed on him. Blaine rolled them over on the acres of bed and worked slowly through the last few moments of drawn-out ecstasy, kissing Kurt’s soft-wet-sweet mouth; sated, delicious kisses.
Kurt blinked down at him sleepily, smiling. “Have we talked, now?”
Blaine stroked down Kurt’s slick-skinned back. Each of his arms felt like they weighed a ton. “I think… we did.”
“Okay.” Kurt laid down on him, stretching out, sliding down until he could rest his head on Blaine’s chest. “In case you didn’t catch the subtext, I missed you.”
Blaine petted Kurt’s silky, sweaty hair, and let his eyes drift closed. “God, yes.” He felt them settle, limbs subtly rearranging, finding home, going lax. Perfect.
The last piece of the puzzle, the last strand woven into the tapestry, rounding out the family he’d found, but not been born to.
Their family, now.
“Love you, Blaine.” Slow, slurred murmur. “So much.”
“I love you too, Kurt.”
It was the last thing he said before he slipped away, Kurt safe and warm and sleeping in his arms.
Pictures, slices, moments in time; family portraits, both greater and lesser:
The Three Graces, oil on canvas. Tina, Quinn and Santana, the original sketch hastily done on a cocktail napkin in the piano bar of a Seattle hotel, while Kurt played boogie-woogie and Mike taught Brittany how to jitterbug. Quinn was easy for him, Tina harder, Santana hardest of all, the edge and fierceness and secret softness of her almost impossible to catch, but he kept at it, and eventually he got it. A gay man’s bold paean to the feminine, according to one critic. Santana just said he should have called it Chicks Who Scare Me.
Quinn in a sarong skirt and bikini top on a beach in Majorca, a photo taken by the hunky investment banker she hooked up with. Her vacation lasted all of two and a half weeks before she was bored out of her mind and really tired of pretending to laugh at jokes about SEC regulations, and came home.
This Venus, watercolor and pastels, seven months later. Quinn on a seashell, her pregnant belly roundly erotic below her happy, madonna-private smile.
Cellphone camera shot, slightly tilted since Kurt was in a rush to capture the moment: Mike on a couch, one finger to his lips while he looked sternly into the camera, Tina asleep in his lap, her hands still loosely clasped around her IDA award for Best Feature.
Another cellphone camera shot, this one blurry and awful since Blaine couldn’t stop laughing—but despite that, it was his favorite picture from their family trip to Disneyland: Kurt and Brittany on either side of Santana in the Small World boat, singing enthusiastically with their hands joined while Santana scowled in the middle, looking like she was about to commit several felonies.
A zillion, quadrillion pictures of San Francisco and its environs, a picturesque backdrop to all the various combinations of Kurt, Rachel and Mercedes, on the girls’ first visit. It was the first time Blaine saw Kurt actually behave like a teenager, and he freaked out a little before he decided to make the most of the opportunity, and had so much furtive, silent, clandestine company-in-the-house sex that both of them walked funny for days.
A series of sketches: Kurt, in his first Broadway show dressing room, hushed and focused. Kurt taking his bows, flowers in hand, exultant. Kurt, in his second Broadway show dressing room, facing the mirror with equanimity. Kurt offstage, waiting for his cue, the formidable look in his eye that Blaine loved so very much. Kurt, in his fifth Broadway show dressing room, asleep on a chaise and looking all of sixteen again, the polished, exquisite man that he’d become sweetly softened to boyishness, an illusion that held until Blaine put his pencil down, leaned in, and kissed him.
Artist and Model IV (like the unfinished III, never offered for sale), oil on canvas. Both of them asleep, both naked. Exhausted and clinging to each other, Kurt settled on top of Blaine just-so, fitted together perfectly, cast up on each other in the vast beach of a bed.
All the legal stuff in this story is heinously wrong in a zillion different ways—I know that. Lots of other stuff in here is undoubtedly wrong too—which is why I write fiction, because I can always pull the ‘I pulled it out of my ass’ card out of my ass.
I’ve been afraid of finishing this story. For me, stories are like love affairs, and when they’re finished I miss them terribly, because we were so intimately involved. Living in this world was a refuge, solace, and a joy, and I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some thanks for the opportunity to Anne Rice, for writing a book I return to again and again, and love so much I finally had to attempt an homage.
I would also like to thank every reader, for sticking with me down this long, winding road. I hope, in the end, you found the view to be worth the trip.
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